Does it matter what you say or how you say it? As the war in Ukraine continues it has been interesting to watch politicians choose their words very carefully. It is in stark contrast to social media content that seems to be an outlet for the worst kind of vitriol. I am sure we have all received emails at work where someone has decided to vomit their opinion to you. It is as if they have no filter! It is not ok, particularly as a leader, to be this way – it displays a lack of self-awareness which will not only harm those you lead but will harm your effectiveness as a leader.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs Ch18 v21
Thousands of years ago the writer of this verse captured something I believe some are choosing to ignore today. The way we speak and the words we choose have the power of life and death in them. You may not put it that way; we may say words can empower, encourage or inspire, and they can also tear down, discourage, and disempower. Words stay with us.
If you think for a moment, you can recall words spoken over you by teachers, parents, and friends which you find difficult to shake off. These words spoken over us shape us and end up being the foundation of limiting beliefs which sabotage our success. Most people in my experience are not deliberately hurtful, things can be said in a moment of hurt or anger or even unawareness which the person on the receiving end finds difficult to let go.
As a leader, being aware of the impact of your words is key to your success. Your position and influence are behind the words you say and add weight to them. Once said, words are difficult to recall. It is far better to be aware enough of your impact before you say something you may later regret.
Insert a Pause
- Think about the impact of what you are about to say. Can you say it in a way which will allow the person with whom you are speaking to receive it?
- Don’t send emails when you are angry. If you want to respond particularly in an email, write it but don’t put an email address in the “to” line. Leave it 24 hours and come back to it – you may find you want to change some of it!
- When you receive some unhelpful communication ask yourself a question – is it true? If not feel free to reject it.
- It is possible to have crucial conversations without falling out. In order to do this, you must make the focus of the conversation the issue and not the person.
- John Maxwell says think of everyone first of all as a 10 and treat them that way. It is a way of thinking the best of those around you. Sometimes people have an off day.
- Disagreement does not equate to disconnection. Work out how you can create an environment where people can speak what’s on their mind without falling out.
“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair” Martin Luther
This is a great quote by someone who faced a huge amount of criticism for the stance he was taking. It is good to remember the words spoken to us may be true and may be not. We don’t have to let them define us. You can choose whether to accept them or put them aside. If the words are true then it is an opportunity for growth, trusted friends are of the ones we must give permission to in order to speak truthfully into our lives. Make sure you have at least one.
If you want to learn how to create environments that allow for great discussion without disconnection click here for a complimentary call.