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The Importance of the Words We Use

The Importance of the Words We Use

I often say that Communication is 7% what you say and 93% everything else. But that doesn't mean words aren't important. In fact, they are incredibly important.

Words are the encodings of our thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, the way we use words create pictures in the minds of others, which can imply or create meaning depending on how we use our words.


Word choice

Word omittance

Word order

Word emphasis..

Can all impact the internal representation someone forms in their head and therefore affect the interpretation of what we are saying. That layered on top of the other 93% that is our communication can make for complications if we are not clear about our word choices.

We take for granted that when we say something … that is … use specific words that we feel others can understand, that this means that the other person will automatically understand the meaning we intend. However, that may not be the case.

My 9-year-old son asked me for a hug, and I was in the middle of cooking something and I (with automaticity) said to him "Not right now, son". My incomplete communication resulted in him thinking that I didn't want to give him a hug when in actuality, I simply wanted to finish what I was doing in that moment. What would have made the difference is if I had said "Yes, as soon as I can step away from the stove". In my mind, the communication may be the same, but the nuance in word choice would have produced a completely different picture in his mind. Eventually, we got to that, but only after he communicated that he thought I didn't want to hug him. He got extra hugs that night as an additional communication of my amends.

When we communicate, our words enter the minds of others forming a mental picture of meaning. Often times if the communication is unclear or incomplete, the brain will fill in the meaning based on past experience, upbringing, and beliefs about you or about themselves. This is why it is important to do our part in making sure we are intentional about the words we choose. That doesn't mean we need to walk on eggshells. It simply means we make conscious choices in our communication to (as much as we can) ensure that what we intend to communicate gets communicated.

When we layer this in with congruent tone of voice, facial expression, and body language, we transmit complete meaning intentionally, create safety and connection, and even empower people with our words.

The next time you are listening, notice what mental pictures are forming as others are speaking to you. Then clarify by asking them if that is what they meant to communicate. Notice how close (or far) your brain is in its meaning making and what made the difference. This will make you more aware of your own communication.

Create Psychological Safety in your organization. When you leave your employees feeling seen, heard, understood, valued, appreciated, and respected they will stay and make your organization their career home. Want to know more? Our "Communication That Transforms: Trauma Informed Communication Online Training" could be the next right training for your organization. Learn more. Click here to learn more: https://mindremappingacademy.com/courses/ticc/ 

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Tuesday, 21 May 2024