Choose Them Carefully.
It’s very easy to underestimate the power that words wield, both positive and negative. Not only are our language and the words we use to communicate every day influenced by our own personal experiences (education, culture, career, etc.) they're also influenced by the global world in which we live.
A 24/7 constant media feed in our ear of language designed to sensationalize, capturing our attention and driving our appetite for more.
Political themes of the day hammer home their messages using words intended to elicit actions that further specific mandates.
Activism language is intended to shock, agitate, and achieve agendas.
We absorb this language 365 days a year, consciously and unconsciously, and it becomes imprinted in our brains and psyches influencing the way we think, what we believe, and how we behave. Simply parroting the language ‘du jour’ without intentionally taking the time to stop and consider the ‘true’ impact of the words we’re speaking and the context in which they’re being applied, can be counterproductive to what we may be trying to accomplish.
The work we do at Compass is based on the spirit of collaboration. Our best results come when we work together with our clients to achieve the desired result. And to be able to do so means that we must be willing to meet each other where we are and agree on what we’re trying to achieve as a team. This requires a willingness to set aside judgment and do whatever is in the best interests of all involved.
We take the time to listen and understand the whole picture before we can chart a path forward. And the language we choose is a critical part of this process. We avoid jargon and politicized terms. Instead, we try to use straightforward language that gets the point across in a way that may feel blunt at times but is intended to reflect reality and fact, not agenda.
We Don’t Know Each Other’s Stories
None of us can or should assume we know someone else’s story, regardless of all the experts, educators, and politicians out there telling us we do. Unfortunately, we live in a world that’s very quick to label everything, including people.
We’re led to believe that based on our education, our job roles, and social standing, among other things, we can draw broad sweeping conclusions about people and that they must use those conclusions as their starting point. This begins with the words we choose to use.
Words Can Slam the Door Shut
Labeling language does something very contrary to the concept of collaboration- it shuts things down. Opening a conversation by making general assumptions about the people in the room based on the language/topics/agendas of the day is the fastest way to close the door to productive work.
If we want to work with people, achieve understanding, and influence them in any direction, the most effective way to do that is to meet them where they are. Being labeled as something they don’t identify with, even in the broadest of terms, no matter how justified you may feel in doing so, immediately closes down their inclination to be open and vulnerable. It feels like and is judgment. And when you’re feeling judged, are you more willing to entertain the viewpoint of the person judging you?
It's easy to overlook how counterproductive and unfair politicized language can be to those closest to us, at work, or beyond- the very people we hope to collaborate with, influence, and build or strengthen relationships. Collaboration requires open minds that can appreciate, find value, and try on other perspectives for size. And choosing language that recognizes commonalities is a wise place to begin. Be conscious of the words you choose to use.
"Don't ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs."
"If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely. If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative. In our thoughts and words, we create our own weaknesses and our own strengths."