Choose Your Words Wisely

I love words and for the most part I consider myself at least a competent communicator, that is until I read this recent finding from researchers at Texas A & M University: “How we experience change is largely dependent on the words used and how they are communicated to us.” Most of us are well aware of the importance of choosing the right words when we communicate to our teams or clients but are we equally judicious about ‘how’ we communicate those word. I would say the answer is no.

Many experts on communication stress the importance of conveying a change initiative – anything from a strategic course correction, to the implementation of a Balanced Scorecard, to the use of Enterprise Performance Management software – in crystal clear terms that everyone can understand. Confusion is the enemy in a time of change, thus the prevailing wisdom emphasizes simplifying the content of the message, rather than considering the emotional or relational punch it may pack. However, this desire to keep things simple and accurate sometimes leads to stale rhetoric reeking of “corporate speak,” and devoid of any real emotional value. Of course, our employees don’t leave their emotional or relational selves at home when they arrive at work each day. In order to reap the benefits often sought by a change, while abating some of the attendant fears, we’ve got to recognize that reality and factor it into our communications.
The next time you’re charged with issuing any type of communication, reach beyond the words and contemplate the emotional message that is often camouflaged within the text. Consider how you might react to the message from an emotional standpoint, and also ask yourself what you want from the relationship with your team on an ongoing basis. Rather than issuing a rote directive on your most recent change initiative that emphasizes factual accuracy, infuse the missive with language that promotes a collaborative and cooperative work environment, emphasizing the undeniable fact that in the end, we’re all in this together. Always ensure your message balances concise delivery of the facts with a core that will reach people at a deeper emotional level.
The stakes are high when change is introduced, fears run at a fever pitch and confusion often reigns. You have the power to change that, by sharing your message so that it acts as a verbal balm, taking the potential sting out of the unknown and fostering a climate of trust. Just choose your words wisely.

Sherylon Carroll-Texas A&M On October 12, 2010 (12:05 pm) In Society & Culture <>

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