The impact of words

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The impact of words

How much thought do you give the words you use? If you’re like most people, probably only more thought when you are in a more challenging situation or when the stakes are high.

I recently read Susan Scott’s ‘Fierce Conversations’. It’s a striking book where she shares some principles of having powerful conversations that in her words enrich relationships. As she also says, “The conversation is the relationship”. More on the principles in a minute.

What I found interesting was a highly memorable nugget that was almost a side mention near the end of her book. This nugget stuck in my mind as I think it’s extremely powerful. It’s about the importance of every word a leader says in the workplace. Yes you read that right every word. There are 2 reasons for this:

  • The importance ascribed to a leader, that is assuming people respect the person to at least some degree, they will listen to what that person has to say.
  • The time, people remember things for a long time if they impact them. On the positive side, it means years later people could be remembering and repeating something positive that was said but it also means the reverse happens. Negative, flippant and hurtful comments, especially if personal, could have a negative impact for years to come.

This comment is made in relation to leaders at work but Susan’s entire book encompasses non work conversations too, so food for thought there for all of us.

To come back to her principles of Fierce Conversations which I think of as powerful, impactful and transformative, they are:

  1. Master the courage to interrogate reality.
  2. Come out from behind yourself and make the conversation real.
  3. Be here, be prepared to be nowhere else.
  4. Tackle your toughest challenge today.
  5. Obey your instincts.
  6. Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
  7. Let silence do the heavy lifting.

I will explore these in more depth in subsequent articles but perhaps for now start thinking what they might mean and how good you are at following them. Relationship building whether at work or at home doesn’t happen in a day, the words you use have a significant impact on how that relationship turns out. Who do you need to be thinking about your words more carefully with?

If you are having challenges with work relationships, get in touch. I have helped many clients understand how their behaviour impacts others and how other people are impacting them, so they can make powerful changes for improved individual career progression and organisational performance.

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