Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Using Your Words: 5 Lessons Your Mom Would Like You to Remember

At a recent Working Wardrobes Leadership Institute event, presenter Vu Pham, Ph.D., CEO of Spectrum Knowledge, gave an interactive and enlightening presentation on Impactful Verbal Communication. Dr. Pham educated the group about why words are so important and discussed the influence that they have in our professional and personal relationships.

This got us thinking, words really are a super power. And with great power comes great responsibility. In 2012, we have many nations in the midst of trying to revive their struggling economies, media is buzzing about the U.S. presidential election, and the world will spend two weeks of the summer watching the London 2012 Olympic Games. Each of these current events is a delicate topic that requires careful and calculated communication choices. 

The way in which leaders, athletes, candidates, and correspondents share information affects our global society. Their words illicit feelings, motivate action (or reaction), and influence ideas and opinions on a large scale. So it only makes sense that their prepared and unprepared statements are scrutinized and debated heavily. It is common practice to analyze the words of those in the media spotlight, because of their public influence. 

Famous or not, every individual has a sphere of influence and though it may be comparatively small, it is certainly not less powerful. Shouldn't we be just as careful and concerned about the messages we are sending to our families, coworkers, and the community? After all, we are defined by our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings and our words are the expression of those things. The power our words have to define us is a very good reason why we should choose them so carefully; we are our words.

Think about your own business or office team. How seriously do you and your coworkers take your word choices when communicating both internally and externally? If your corporate communications came under media scrutiny, would your organization emerge as the inspirational figure with the admiration of millions or as the candidate who let an entire campaign slip through his or her fingers?

Corporate communications can be complicated. There are multiple audiences, with broad differences and interests to consider. Messages are communicated and discussions generated through many different avenues (i.e. meetings, water-cooler discussions, emails, social media, marketing, memos, etc.).

Sometimes the path to success can be found within the simple rules and lessons of life. From the very beginning of development, parents begin teaching children about appropriate and inappropriate communication. In honor of Mother's Day this past Sunday, here are 5 basic rules of communication that would be helpful in any workplace, inspired by the expert on all things good: Mom! 
  • Be nice. How many times did our mothers tell us to "be nice"? Moms have a long list of people you should be nice to: your brother or sister, elders, teachers, and your classmates or teammates. If only we could have a Mom recording with us throughout the day at work, imagine how harmoniously teams would work together. Everyone would be listening, sharing, helping, and taking turns. Perhaps it sounds silly, but consider a current challenge your team is experiencing and then break that challenge down to root of the issue. Is the situation stemming from a lack of attention, some selfish behavior, lack of collaboration, or a need to rush things through? Factor "being nice" into the problem and it might not look so bad anymore.
  • Be mindful of your "tone" of voice. 
  • Everyone has those "Na, na, na-na-na," moments, but there's good reason why Moms make a point to discourage this behavior. Author Ira Gassen advises, “Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment.” Furthermore, those thoughts are also very likely to become actions. A recent Forbes article on the effects of social media on communication made an important point that, "...only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language." People often say far more with tone and body language than they often do with words. Perception is a complex blend of visual and auditory cues, that may include facial expression, stance or movements, and vocal inflection (just to name a few).
  • Don't talk to strangers. Moms employ this rule to keep their children safe and protected from others with bad intentions. In a work environment, this rule applies to gossip and respecting the confidentiality of our projects, internal and external clients, and coworkers. We all need to voice opinions from time to time, but it is important to consider who you're sharing with and what information should or should not be discussed with that person. Food for thought from an American journalist, gossip columnist, and author: "If you wouldn't write and sign it, don't say it." ~Earl Wilson
  • Speak up. If you have something to say, say it. Moms are not fans of muttering under your breath and certainly would not want us to stand by idly if we could be a part of the solution in any way. Speaking up doesn't mean speaking over, speaking out of line, or speaking to cause a distraction. At work, we need to speak up to support the team, to encourage innovation, and protect company values and ethics. Your constructive thoughts have tremendous value to the success of your organization; don't stifle them.
  • Look at me when I'm talking to you. Not only is this one of Mom's favorite lessons, but it is necessary at work too (It is important to note when doing business, that not all societies perceive eye contact as the sign of respect that we do in the U.S.). If you're hoping to effectively and respectfully convey your message, then you must engage your audience. Give your message and your audience the respect they deserve. Look at them and set aside time for the discussion. The attention you give to your message will have a direct correlation to the response you receive.
Ask any Mom what her paramount wish is for her children and she will undoubtedly tell you that it is for their happiness and success. The lessons our mothers taught us as children about respecting the power of our words are lessons that we need to carry with us into all areas of our lives. By using these basic lessons in the office, with clients, and in the community we will build strong, productive business relationships that will result in success. 

Escoe Bliss Professional Resources can provide expert consulting teams for your organization's communication improvement needs, including change management, leadership development, and training & facilitation. Contact us for more information on how we can help at 949.336.6444.

Blogging with Bliss contributor Regina Gormanly is Brand Ambassador & Project Coordinator at Escoe Bliss. She finds her bliss by writing and managing content for Escoe Bliss' social media. Regina's love of learning and communication are the driving forces behind her blogs.

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