What are some words that unknowingly undermine communication?
Hello, this is Laura Lee Rose. I am a speaker and author. I am an expert in time and project management.
I help busy professionals and entrepreneurs create effective systems so that they can comfortably delegate to others, be more profitable and have time to enjoy life even if they don’t have time to learn new technology or train their staff. I have a knack for turning big ideas into on time and profitable projects.
At the end of the day, I transform the way you run your business into a business you love to run.
Today’s comment came from a busy professional:
Are there words we use that undermine our communication? Beyond
grammar and mispronunciation, do words and phrases confuse people?
Effective communication is one of the hardest skills to master and sustain. Not only do you have language constraints, vocabulary levels, and various interpretations for the same words and phrases; depending upon your current emotional state a mind the wrong choice of words can either close or open their minds to your message.
Think about the two words “aggressive” and “assertive”. There’s nothing wrong with either word. But – based upon your emotional state of mind – you may have a “bad” reaction to one of them.
For example, people that feel that others are taking advantage of them – might be attracted to and like the word “aggressive”. They might feel that they need to be more aggressive to stop people from taking advantage of them. They feel that they need to “draw the line” and “stand up to others”. They are ready to defend their stand.
Other people that are confident in their ability and value may have a negative connotation of the word “aggressive”. They may feel it too harsh and not beneficial for a collaborative and cohesive partnership. These people may be more attracted to the word “assertive” because they are very comfortable “asserting” their position, expectations and goals. They don’t have a need to force anyone to their viewpoint (which the word “aggressive” leads them to believe). At the same time, they are very comfortable walking away from a situation that doesn’t meet their needs, because they know there are other opportunities that are a better fit.
Yet, a person that likes to be in control, may see both attitudes of “drawing the line in the sand” and “walking away from a situation that doesn’t meet their needs” – as an ultimatum. Once the situation is labeled as “an ultimatum” in their mind, that person is now in a negative and uncooperative state of mind.
So – even attitudes and emotions come into play more than you first think. And we haven’t even discussed different cultures, vocabulary levels and language barriers.
So – how can successfully accomplish this complex problem? One recommendation is to Keep It Simple. This starts with avoiding ambiguous and vague terms and phrases. Keeping the sentences short and to the point. And periodically check with your audience to see if they are hearing what you think you are saying.
Some words to avoid:
· Everything, but X, Y, Z.
· Always, Never, Everything
o Absolute nouns are dangerous because they are rarely true. When your audience hears something like “Everything” – they immediate start to think of items to disprove your statement. Now they are making their own separate list and not listening to the rest of your sentence.
o Instead – STATE all the inclusions (not the exceptions).
· Fast, slow, faster, slower
o These are relative adjective. What’s fast to Great-Aunt Martha isn’t fast to Nephew Nicholas.
o Instead, state the explicit measurements/speed.
· Almost, sometimes
o This is very vague. People will wonder when it doesn’t occur.
o Instead, be specific when this works and when it doesn’t. State all the inclusions.
· Should, could, may-
o Instead, use “must”, or “will”
· If without the else
o This is just as important in contracts as in any other types of agreement. People spend time deciding and agreeing on the plan. BUT what if things do not go “according to plan”, what is the consequence?
o Include the consequences of “else”
· Words with multiple and possible meanings
o Quick example is “lead”. Sometimes the context of the note will clarify which definition we are referring – but why add that ambiguity?
o Quick example table at the end of this article.
o Replace the word or clarify your meaning in parenthesis.
· “The code will be delivered on Friday – “
o You may thing you are being specific, but who is going to deliver it? What quality is expected? What time can you depend upon receiving?
o Cover the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When and How)
Other things to consider:
· Be consistent – use the same words to mean the same thing.
o For instance, if you directing the client to review the “contract”, and then start referring to a previous “agreement” – the client is wondering if you are talking about a different “agreement/contract”; or the same document.
o Use the explicit document name, consistently. For example, MyFileDoc (hereafter referred to as “the contract”)
· Prefer simple words – over more complex
· Omit extra words
· Write short sentences
Conclusion: Effective communication is NOT “tell them what you want to tell them”. Effective communication is “making sure your message is being received in the exact way you wanted it to be received.” And you can do this by sharing in “short sentences”, and then asking them to paraphrase what you just said. You can do this easily by saying “I just want to make sure I conveyed this right. Can you repeat what I just said?” Do the same as the listener: “I want to repeat this back to you, to make sure I heard you correctly.”
The paraphrasing phase gives you an opportunity to clarify and simplify your message.
I know your situation is different. Why don’t we schedule an appointment, where I get to know more about your unique situation? And then I will be happy to make recommendations on what your best steps are moving forward. To schedule an appointment, book it HERE.
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I have a presentation on “3 Keys to saying YES to everything but on your own terms”. To sign up for the complimentary course, go to www.lauraleerose.com/Say-Yes
Appendix: Sample of Multiple Meaning Words