The Power of Words

Leslee Hill, Director, Women's Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) at The NIIC

There are numerous books and websites that discuss the importance of communication in the workplace. Not only is this topic relevant in today’s world, it will be continuously crucial over time. We communicate with many different people every day and choosing our words wisely is important. I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Elizabeth MacDonald of The Verbal Edge where she discussed the communication topic of “Changing Negatives to Positives.” It is amazing how a simple phrase that we speak or write can be negative in connotation and by changing just a few of the words, becomes positive. Here are a few key points from Elizabeth’s workshop:

1. Words are powerful. Effective communication is an art that can be mastered with mindfulness. Striving to make our words and their meaning clear to others in both verbal as well as written communication is imperative and takes practice.   Our words should instill confidence that the recipient will clearly understand the message that is being conveyed to them.

2. Positive words should always be used and it is possible to do so! How many times have you spoken with a fellow employee about an uncomfortable situation? Maybe they ate a few too many onions at lunch and you’d like to tell them nicely that they should eat a mint or two.  Using positive phrases such as “You’ll appreciate this…” makes the listener realize that what will be said next is an important piece of information that they need to know and will draw the listener in.

3. Avoid negative words such as not, don’t won’t, and can’t. Elizabeth stressed that negative words confuse, distract, dis-empower, discourage, disrespect, distort, and destroy the true meaning that the messenger is trying to convey. A great example of distraction is the phrase “Don’t forget to…”. The first word, “don’t”, puts the recipient on edge…it makes negative thoughts go through their minds – “What am I not supposed to do?” “What did I do forget?” A more positive way to convey the message is to lead with “Remember to…”. This takes all negativity away and tells the recipient what they should consider from the conversation.

Another example are phrases that dis-empower. Saying “I don’t know…” takes away any confidence the recipient has in the messenger. By taking away the negativity through the words, “I will find out…”, the recipient is assured that the answer will be given to them.

By taking just a little extra time to think about what we are going to say or write to a coworker, negativity can definitely be avoided. Being positive with our words can bring enormous benefits to the workplace.


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