We have all heard the expression: “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” The same thing applies to words that we toss around so casually. Words color our imagination and evoke emotions. In fact, someone said recently said to me, “Don’t look for deficiencies. Look for proficiency.” The simple word changed my thought process.
Anyone in a leadership position has an enormous obligation to select words carefully. As Mark Twain famously said, “The difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.”
Consider the difference between the word “invasion” and “migration”. Even without the political implication, you can see how a raft of emotions differ with just one word. For a leader to say to the rank and file, “Our merger is tenuous” instead of “our merger is tentative” sets up potential expectations of either a positive or negative nature.
There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. There’s a difference between describing an elder as aged versus experienced.
In our hurried 24/7 world, I believe that creating a culture of optimism, compassion and collaboration depends greatly on the language we use as well as just how we say something. But since so much of our “communication” falls in the digital realm with 280 or less characters, words become even more paramount.
Something to think about.