Choose Your Words WISELY

Winnipeg Free Press, September 7, 2013 | Go to article overview

Choose Your Words WISELY


Learning how to communicate more effectively critical to success in life

If you really think about it, these past few weeks have opened a window on the importance of our choice of words. On the one hand, millions of Americans and Canadians once again stood in awe at the power of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech" some 50 years ago. His choice of words mobilized society and served to positively change both nations.

On the other hand, Manitobans have been quickly mobilized against Deputy Premier Eric Robinson, whose choice of words landed him in the spotlight for his "do-good white people" comment found hidden in an intergovernmental email. Since then, accusations of racism have been flying fast and furious as more and more people have waded into the debate.

Yet, the power of these words has not diminished, even with the help of public relations gurus who have attempted to smooth the rough waters of this controversy.

No matter which side of the controversy readers take, this situation is a good lesson for all of us. You better believe it, there's power in our words. Words have the power to mobilize for good or for evil. Words are known to ruin all types of relationships. And as we see on the world stage, words can even lead us to the brink of war.

Overall, how we use words has been getting a lot more attention in society and the workplace than in years past. In fact, the old saying, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me," has been proven time and time again to be totally erroneous. While I'm sure the original lesson was to encourage us to turn the other cheek and ignore hurtful comments, when words get to the point of verbal abuse and racial slurs, then enough is enough -- tempers flare, conflict arises and feelings are hurt.

However, now we have accepted words are indeed powerful, to be honest, I'm still not confident our general population pays sufficient attention to the power of what they say or how they say it. And, since most of us don't have a public relations specialist at hand, paying attention to our vocabulary and our expressions and learning how to communicate more effectively is critical to our ongoing success in all aspects of life. So where does one start?

I'm confident the following tips will help to refocus and improve your communication skills.

Check your attitude -- Good communicators have a positive life attitude and believe everyone is equal no matter their colour, racial origin, or opinion, for that matter. A positive self-attitude helps to prevent blurting out comments listeners or readers experience as personal "put-me-downs" and/or racial slurs.

Think before you speak/write -- Thinking through the goals and objectives of a communication, be it a brief sentence or a long paragraph, ensures off-hand, spurious comments are avoided. Examine who the audience is, what the issue is and what the sensitivities are before responding. Believe me, more careers have been damaged by "off the cuff" comments than anything else.

Confirm your environment -- Language is an important key to successfully persuading others, communicating intentions and controlling one's environment. This means you must be careful, because what is appropriate and what is effective in a business environment may not be effective in a casual environment. You need to know the difference and communicate accordingly.

Choose vocabulary wisely -- You may not realize it, but your vocabulary actually becomes your identity. …

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