Why empathy is a critical skill for all levels of staff
August 6, 2020

The weight of your words

In this age of information, your words spread as fast as wildfire. You can get a message to a colleague on the other side of the country or world in an instant. Productivity has shot through the roof because of this.

We use words to highlight the benefits of our brand, to motivate consumers to buy products and to engage with fans on your social platforms. Words are a double-edged sword; they can build up your brand or tear it down.

As of late, we’ve seen that the actions of a few spread virally across the globe, with a message that can cause a complete overhaul of systemic issues. The weight your words carry can impact people globally and generate an impactful discourse around your brand.

It’s not about hyper-sensitivity or not knowing where to start. It’s the awareness of the weight of your words.

Hierarchy titles
This is a practice most businesses incorporate into their org-charts. Staff are labelled junior to senior by titles. It creates a separation of apparent skill simply because of the use of a diminutive word like ‘Junior’.

Titles don’t immediately indicate the value of your ideas or contribution to the firm. The lowest level of your staff could have the idea that results in the best solution for your clients, but they might not be willing to speak up because of a more ‘junior’ title.

Demotivational speeches
You might be inclined to tell a colleague to “Think outside the box!” This trite phrase intends to encourage, but what you’re really saying is that the person you’re addressing has a mundane way of thinking. They’re average, uninspiring. Instead, try to have a round-table discussion, brain-storm with the idea that no idea is stupid.

You can even reverse the scenario and try to come up with only bad ideas. This might sound counterproductive, but it will spark conversation when someone says, ‘Wait a minute, that’s actually not a half-bad idea’. In these scenarios, multiple levels of the company need to be there for unique points of view and varying skillsets to have the best ideation session.
Careless qualifiers
How many times have you been here: ‘You’ve done a great job, today’, ‘She’s really good at her job, though’ or ‘However, he produces sound work’. Chances are, it’s more often than you care to notice.

Just inside these little terms is a verbal undermining. As if the success described is only achieved ‘in spite’ of something. It might not be intentional, but someone is bound to take offence. These filler words can profoundly impact the life of the person referenced.

Misinformed phrasing
Consider the world of customer service. In a retail environment you’re frequently asked, ‘Is that all?’ and ‘Can I get you anything else?’. The former is framed as though you’re not buying enough or potentially buying too little. It insinuates that the customer is burdensome. Where the second statement shines is in its value-adding phrasing. This question offers further service to the customer.

Tone and delivery matter, with these two phrases asking near-identical questions, you’re likely to get very different results.

Words count – You’ve heard before that 93% of communication is non-verbal, but no amount of poise or engaging speaking techniques will save you from a verbalised mistake.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech may be recorded, but on their own, the words carry a strong message that stands the test of time. Visuals can enhance communication, but words and phrasing ultimately carry the weight of your message.
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