Know Your Audience

Blog 2022-06-21 Words Matter Audience

A new client came to me with the goal of being promoted into a C-Suite executive position. People respected him but they couldn’t seem to relate or connect to him. I listened in on some calls where interaction with others was high. What I noticed could be a game-changer, with some coaching and practice. 

When speaking to others, he routinely used certain descriptive words that appeared to create the chasm: only, just, a little are a couple examples … “An assigned task should only take an hour.” “The quota was missed by just a few percentage points.” “A little more effort is all that is needed.” 

Words matter – and the definition of words can shift based on your situation. In other words, perspective is the seat you sit in. To ensure you have the impact you want, it’s important to look at others’ perspectives and circumstances. 

A student with straight As gets a lesser grade and laments aloud that she only got a B+; to a student in that class who constantly struggles, a B+ would be nirvana. As a result, the struggling student likely has lots of inner chatter that worsens the situation, such as: “I’ll never be as smart as her.” “Who does she think she is to complain?” “She probably thinks she’s better than me.” And, down the drain it goes. No wonder connection and resonance with the straight-A student is difficult for the struggling one.   

So, how did my client accomplish the game-changing shift? He eliminated the descriptive words completely. Moving away from “A little more effort is all that is needed” to “More effort is needed” accomplished two things: the phrase became a statement versus a perceived judgement; and, it created the space for dialogue to occur if the recipient felt overwhelmed and believed the additional effort would be herculean. 

Remember: Doing something only once may be easy for you, and a huge challenge for others. 

This Week’s Challenge: Be aware of the descriptive words you use when with others. Are you unknowingly assuming that people will resonate with your perspective? Increase your awareness by stroke counting the number of times you use words such as just, only, a little, etc.  and practice avoiding those descriptors in future conversations. Be cognizant of the descriptive words you use with yourself. How are you minimizing your efforts by using as just, only, a little, etc.?   

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  1. Doug Brady on June 21, 2022 at 11:20 am

    Excellent! Words do indeed matter, even if we discount their value at times.
    Thanks for sharing.

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