Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life Lessons for Leaders – Communication: Use Your Words, Don’t Let Them Use You

Have you noticed that all of life seems to be a symbol for something else?  Words aren’t any different.  They represent things, but they aren’t the things they represent.  They are phonetic symbols, that when put in an agreed-upon order, and given a meaning, denote something. 

Remember, a couple of blogs ago, I talked about how we use the words we learn as symbols with which to organize our worlds.  And, that our family, our tribe, teach us these symbols – the definitions and the intellectual content of the words.  From a metaphysical standpoint, we think with these words and we become what we think.  Taking this one step further, we also attach emotional content to the words we have learned, based upon our experiences and how we felt about those experiences. 

For example, let’s take the word mother.  The definition is a female parent.   When you think about the word mother, what emotions come up for you?  What does it feel like, smell like, taste like?  You can see that the emotional content is even more significant than the intellectual content, in many cases. 

I recently had a relatively deep conversation with some people about the phrase “How are you going to make it happen?” in relationship to setting goals and taking them to fruition.  When you look at the definition of the word make, it is relatively innocuous.  It means to create, or give form.  However, several people had a deep negative reaction to the phrase,  for similar, but different reasons.  The intellectual definition was overridden by the emotional content of those words.  For them, these particular words brought up visions of a power structure, an uncaring boss, and forcing someone to do something.  When we changed the structure of the phrase to “How are we going to make it happen?” it quickly softened the emotional content.  When we changed the structure to “How are you going to manifest this in your life?” it took the negative away, and moved it into the positive realm. 

Words continue to bring up feelings of love, safety, hate, fear, anxiety and avoidance.  These are responses we often learned as children when we first encountered them as children.  And, we have never bothered to redefine those words as adults.  A lot has transpired since you first learned your words in terms of sensitivity, experience and education.  It may be to your benefit to look at your words, and redefine your personal adult dictionary.  It’s essential to know and understand the words you use, because they could be using you.  You can control your words by changing your definitions and your feelings relating to them.  This is the only way you can free yourself enough to control your life, because the words you use will determine your belief systems and your actions. 

Before I finish here, I’d like to slip into the non-verbal aspect of messages.  These are smiles, handshakes, hugs, laughter, eye contact, touching, holding, etc.  These are also languages or symbols of communication and have power in their own right.  As does listening.  As does action. 

When someone asks you how you are doing, and you say ‘fine’ it is important you tell your face the same thing. 

Research shows that the average person listens 4-5 times faster than most people can talk.  When you are listening, how do you decide to use the intervals?  Are you thinking of how to respond?  Are you planning dinner and your grocery list?  Are you busy judging the other person’s clothes, grammar, and personal mannerisms?  How much do you miss when you do that?

Do you show your co-workers you care about them?  How do you put your feelings into action?  What message do you convey after you have said “I care about you”?

Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.   Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.

Related Posts: Life Lessons for Leaders – Caring Communication, Life Lessons for Leaders – How Do You Say I Care?, Life Lessons for Leaders – Communication: The Art of Dialogue

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6 Responses to “Life Lessons for Leaders – Communication: Use Your Words, Don’t Let Them Use You”
  1. William Knegendorf says:

    BEWARE KEYBOARDS As technology continues to promote non-verbal communications, we are at risk to forget how word sounds convey emotion – smooooooth sounds more attractive than slick – mad sounds less threatening than angry. People who have a good command of the presentation of words will always be more valuable than those who have only an excellent grasp of the meaning of words. give good listeners something to look forward to.

    • Georgia says:

      I can’t agree with you more! In the world of social media networking and communications, it is critical to understand this aspect of the language. Depending, however, on the emotional reactions of the person reading the words, is dicey at best.

  2. Nicely stated. We are so busy these days that we forget to take the time to notice the reaction that we are getting from our communication. In the information age it’s so easy to add to the information overload without knowingly enhancing our community. To counteract this effect, in my social media circles I take the time to read the news feed and keep up on what my network connections are doing, feeling, saying, thinking…..

    The meaning of communication is the response you get. It’s not until we get the feedback on our words can we modify our choice of words, if necessary, to re-communicate our message. Choosing your words wisely is more than being politically correct; it is about connecting with your audience and building community.

    • Georgia says:

      I love what you said about your words being about connecting with your audience and building community. It reminds me of what Susan Scott says in her book, Fierce Conversations, “the conversation IS the relationship”. Yes, it is!

  3. Kymberly says:

    So true that words are important, meaning laden, and critical. You show another example of how one word can make such a difference. When we talk via computer, word choice, syntax, structure, become even more important since TONE is pulled from the message. Go words!
    Kymberly recently posted..The Best Time to Work Out- Now or Later

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