Language is powerful. Every single day we can choose to use positive and inclusive language in order to have greater influence, motivate others and achieve better results. As human beings, we are bound together by our relationships and communication. The strength of those relationships is based on how we relate and how to talk to one another. Language has the power to lift others up, or tear them down. A simple “great job” can have a lasting impact on someone’s motivation. Likewise, a passing comment of “don’t be so sensitive” can make someone feel unheard, under-valued and misunderstood.
Choose language that promotes collaboration
Facilitating strategic meetings with leaders from different departments can be fraught with tension and opposing opinions. In these situations, using encouraging language that invites open and collaborative conversation is vital to get everyone on the same page. A wonderful example of a phrase that I would highly encourage you to adapt and use as often as possible is “How might we..”. It’s a phrase that never fails me and always opens the door to exploring opinions and ideas that will lead to agreeable outcomes. Let’s break it down and see how powerful each word is in this phrase…
The ‘how’ implies that something will happen, with the method yet to be discovered by the collective team. The ‘might’ implies that something could happen and it actively invites new ideas. Such a powerful little word not only does it invite all ideas, it also removes any feeling of shame if the idea is not ultimately used. The word ‘we’ reinforces a collaborative effort and the likelihood that an eventual decision will be supported by the whole team. All in all, it’s a great phrase to use in any situation where you are trying to achieve a collaborative approach to a meeting; to turn a potentially negative or challenging discussion into one whereby everyone wants to seek a positive solution.
What you say can have a different meaning for others
We need to be vigilant about our use of language and our choice of words. As leaders and managers, we also face the challenge of using language that doesn’t translate accurately into what we actually mean. The wrong choice of words can lead to a breakdown in what is trying to be communicated. We can dramatically improve the flow of understanding if we are more thorough and considered in the words we use to communicate to our colleagues and ensure that what we intend to communicate actually comes out right.
Think back to a time when you thought you had clearly explained something to somebody only to discover they interpreted it differently. This is a common human experience. In the workplace we all try to make information simple and clear when communicating to our team. But we make our points based on the way we see the world. Others have a different life experience to you. They may see the world through a different lens, shaped by their unique experience and preferences. So, while we may communicate clearly and simply presented information, others might see and hear something close to what is what is being communicated but some of the detail may get lost in translation, leading to tension and misunderstandings.
How can we address this? Stop. Listen. And clarify your understanding or what is being said. And if you are the one communicating information, have your recipients say it back to you, to double check they are hearing it right. As a leader it helps to get deeper insights into the individuals you work with, so you can speak their language. By understanding what kind of lens your colleagues look through to decipher information, you can better ‘package up’ the information you are delivering them by using language that reflects how they see the world. Being more mindful in the language we use means we can more effectively collaborate and work together to solve complex issues in the workplace.
Choose language that is inclusive
Businesses that embrace diversity and have an inclusive culture not only make better business decisions most of the time, their levels of collaboration are stronger, so they make decisions twice as fast, with half the meetings.
Using inclusive language is so important to make everyone feel respected and valued. People who feel respected and valued are generally happier in the workplace. And when people are happy at work, they are more motivated and connected to their work, which in turn drives performance. When gathering information to make important strategic decisions, all the individuals who make up the company should feel their opinion and feedback matters. Leaders should use language that reinforces this and actively seeks out opportunities for everyone to have their say. Simply having a one-on-one with each member of your team and telling them “your feedback is important” and then actively listening to it makes a big impact on their ‘care-factor’ in the organisation and the work they do.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.