16 Enlightening Communication Principles
I’m intentional with 20% of my words; the rest is vain babbling.
I’ve never left a meeting wishing I spoke more. I have, on the other hand, continued speaking after running out of things to say.
Words are the cheapest yet most powerful tool available to all leaders. Words lift or push down, enlighten or confuse, energize or de-motivate, and create or destroy.
The Power of Words:
- Flatterers puff you up so you’ll lift them up.
- Backstabbers secretly invite you to condemn yourself by inviting you to condemn others.
- Always answer a question with a question.
- Casually spoken words cut. Stop blabbing.
- The rule for words is restraint: fewer words are better than many words. Churchill said, “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”
- Words limit and create bondage like a snare. Avoid unnecessary promises and commitments.
- Life giving words are intentional; seldom accidental.
- Intentionally energize rather than accidentally demotivate with your words.
- Harsh words invite harshness.
- Gentle words drain drama and anger.
- Quiet words enable better than loud words.
- Loud words excite or overwhelm; more frequently they overwhelm.
- Avoid whisperers they manipulate.
- Behaviorally speaking lying is hatred.
- Never publicly improve the boss’s words.
- Embrace the two to one rule. Ask two questions – at a minimum – before making statements.
What have you learned about the power of words?
How can leaders use words more effectively?
When others speak loudly, soften your voice.
When speaking of others, speak as if it were of you.
Variation on #16—ask one question, listen twice as much. Pause, listen some more.
While it is the words, it’s not the words…it’s what is in between the words that is the message.
I’ve missed you. 🙂
All your insights help me and I’m sure others. I love the dynamic action of “when others speak loudly, soften your voice. NICE
Best to you,
Doc is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
Words can elevate or deflate instantaneously. I just finished reading “Standing Tall,” by C. Vivian Stringer, the head coach of the Rutgers Women’s basketball team. The team, after working incredibly hard, ended up in the NCAA Championship game (in 2006 I think). Shortly thereafter, a nationally syndicated radio host made what he considered to be a passing comment that was racially stereotypical and offensive. She described how a comment that he probably didn’t even remember making (until every media outlet in the world replayed it over and over) immediately sucked the joy out of the team’s success. Coach Stringer talked about the eventual meeting between her team, their families, the radio show host and his wife — the families talked about how for every single one of them (the generation older than the college students) the remarks had opened a scar.
It only took three words to do the damage. They were “accidental demotivators” in the most destructive of ways.
The link to Coach Stringer’s Site/Book Info: http://coachstringer.com/
Thanks for another reason to be intentional with words. Powerful!
Paula is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
A friend once coached me with this very good expression; “Soft words, hard arguments.” The premise being that you need to have your facts and your data straight (do your homework) but deliver it respectfully with soft words. I have taken that and used it time and time again in my career and it has served me very well.
Great article, thanks for sharing.
Patti, Love “soft words hard arguments” powerful and true. Thank you for sharing and for all your support. You encourage me every day. Best, Dan
Great advice, Patti. Thanks for sharing. I know too many people that like to use data/facts as a weapon. Not effective.
Reminds me of the story of a boy who talked bad about someone to everyone in the town. After being confronted by a friend, he felt bad. So bad, in fact, that he went to his pastor to ask how he could make amends for talking ill about the person.
The pastor said, “Here’s what you need to do. Take this bucket of feathers and run through town throwing the feathers out into the air. Run all over. Let the feathers fly everywhere. When the bucket is empty, return to me for further instruction.”
The boy did as his pastor instructed. When all the feathers had been released into the air, he returned to the pastor for his next assignment, as he was eager to have the guilt released from his shoulders.
The pastor said, “Now, your final step is to take the bucket, go back into town, and collect all the feathers and bring them back to me.”
The boy said, “But that is an impossible task. I cannot collect every feather. They could be miles away by now. Besides, I didn’t count how many feathers there were. How would I possibly know if I retrieved every one?”
His pastor replied, “Exactly. Once the feathers are released into the air, they are impossible to retrieve. And the same is true of your words. The best you can hope to do is to go to the person you spoke ill of and beg their grace and forgiveness. And let this be a lesson the next time you are tempted to speak ill of anyone.”
Cool story Scott. It motivates me to choose my words carefully. I’m running for a bucket right now. Thanks for all you do.
Scott is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at: http:leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/scott-couchenour
Dan, A powerful message elegantly stated! If everyone in the workplace religiously lived by half of them, we’d all experience more satisfaction and less stress. Well done..again, ~Dawn
Dawn, Thank you for being a people lifter. Cheers, Dan
A few thoughts . . .
1. When I began public speaking, I was told, “Start at the beginning, go to the end, then stop. And the last step is the hardest.”
2. I have a rule that I won’t talk about other people, but I’ll go along to talk with them. Once people learn this about me, it effectively neutralizes the backstabbers.
3. I coach my supervisors that as soon as they raise their voices, they’ve lost. If you have both authority and logic on your side, you don’t need volume. If you have logic but no authority, you shouldn’t need it either. If you have authority but not a logical argument, then you should shut up altogether.
Your voice of experience is wise and useful.
Of all the areas where I use words, public speaking is the one where I’m most self-critical.
Here’s a rule for you: Leave’em wanting more!
I always look for your comments.
Best to you,
Great stuff, Greg!
Dan. can I get a T-shirt with your opening line? “I’m intentional with 20% of my words; the rest is vain babbling.”
The other T-shirt I’ve threatened to have made for a few of my coaching clients: “Ask more questions, make less statements.” Maybe another one is instead of “you are what you eat” it should be “you are what you speak” or “you attract what you speak.”
Good stuff. We/me simply don’t spend enough time thinking about our words, showing restraint, asking more questions. These are powerful tools in leadership, in parenting, in relationships, in life.
I used to work in the collection industry. When the technology to record calls was introduced it became such a powerful tool in helping people to modify their behavior. You could tell them all day about having a friendlier tone, or having their voice treat people like customers, but when they could hear themselves it was such a powerful moment. For many it was the first time they “experienced themselves.”
I wish I could record all my words…well, maybe not, but you get the point. I’m out!
Great point about recording, or at least the idea of trying to listen to what you sound like. In some circumstances, you can get feedback from someone you trust – my wife, for example, is very good at gently letting me know that I may have given a different perception than I wanted to.
I’m delighted you joined the conversation. Seeing ourselves is a powerful, unnerving moment.
I’m with you Greg, perhaps we can’t record ourselves but we can find some honest colleagues that will help us “see” how we are coming across.
Words are the indicators of personality. They usually create fast impression and that impression lasts long. Fascinating words create favourbale environment and poor words usually unable to create immediate impression. But words are one way communication. And it takes two make complete communicaiton. It means even fascinating or impressive words mislead people when they fail to show result. On the other hand, even poor words that meet promise and create result are long lasting and create reliability. So, which one is better, impressive words that do not meet it, or poor words that meet that promise. I think, words mislead people at first instance. You can not judge the person only by his words. It could be prematured or lop sided. Words can best be measured against fulfillment.
I think leaders can use words more effectively by meeting their words. They can also measure themselves against their words. Only impressing people with the words they want to listen are the dangerous and actually speaking, manipulators do that. Leaders can use words effectively by being real and authentic. The most misleading assumption behind intended use of impressive words are to become popular and be what you are not.
“Indicators of personality” is a great statement. And as you point out the gap between our words and actions tells people a lot about us too. Great reminder that we communicate a lot more than just what the words say.
Thank you for bring the importance of behaviors to the conversation. It’s true words make a fast impression.
Words are the cheapest and most powerful tool of leaders. They, however, quickly lose their power unless they are backed by consistent behaviors.
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
A very meaning full topic “power of words”for which usually we give least attention as well as importance. its rightly said that our love, emotions, feelings almost every act of human beings are driven by words which are very positive & so as hatred, jealous, insult etc are also given by words & these are very negative. Words are so powerful that one can be cured with the physical injury once but the deep wound created by words some time remains incurable. Perhaps this could be the reason why it is said that always thing twice before you speak as words once slip from tongue cant be taken back.
If we want to see the real power of words we can see them through poetry how well the words get united to describe something , we can see power of words when a mother sings for her baby to get sleep, when simple words gives so much of motivations that it brings revolution.
I think leaders has a bigger responsibility of using words with care. its for them that they should never use the words just for the better feelings of others. If they say something at any given condition they should follow the same. As for them it might be few words or a way to get ride from current situation but for others those words are trust faith & a great amounts of hope.Which If left Unfulfilled it can bring great amount of distrust ,agitation whether in a person,in an organisation or in a society at a large.
I am in agreement with you. Words can be healing agent and provide medicinal effect if used carefully. On the hindsight, words are misleading too, when people use with hidden intention. So, one should not be influenced merely by words but by understadning the weight of those words.
Thanks for your insights.
What a wonderful post! And, as usual, the responses from your every so thoughtful readers are equally beneficial. I was born a “Chatty Cathy”. “Vain babbling” describes most of us to a T, unless we remember to be intentional. I needed to learn from a very early age, think before you open your mouth.
As a ‘ready, fire, aim” individual that learning to put a pause in your conversations, with everyone is so invaluable. That old adage ” 2 ears, 1 mouth – use them in that mathematical amount” works on every level.
I used to say to our children “your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what you are saying” – It’s a phrase I believe Leaders need as well.
“Indicators of personality” is a fabulous phrase Ajay! – but then, it is what we have come to expect from you.
“Silence cannot be misquoted.” Alton Garrison
It is very interesting that quite a few people I have interviewed think that one of the things that is misunderstood about them is people misunderstanding their silence in a meeting for lack of interest. They keep quiet because they are thinking and absorbing what was said and also feel that the rest of the room have covered what they wanted to say. It is very easy for people to just speak for the sake of speaking, hence I like “I’ve never left a meeting wishing I spoke more. I have, on the other hand, continued speaking after running out of things to say.”
Thabo, I liked that line (never left a meeting wishing I spoke more) too.
I realize I tend to continue talking (after I’ve said what I’ve said) in times when I’m nervous what others think or when I’m passionate about what I’m saying. I’m trying to take deep breaths before speaking. It helps a little.
Oh, and I use my hands a lot too.
I agree with both of your comments, I have even noticed at times (myself included) salespeople continue to sell, when the selling is done. Perhaps too many of us like the sound of our own voice.
One possible solution, listen to it on a voice recorder and see if one’s opinion changes. Personally, I’m not a fan of my sound.
Great post with wonderful comments! While many of us should spare the air and say less that means more, please don’t go silent. I once worked with a chairman of a non-profit board who wanted people to read his mind. And not surprisingly, all of us read it differently. We all cheered when his term was up, which was probably the only time we were all on the same page, including the chair. Balance is important!
Great point. Silence is not an option. Perhaps this is s good place to add that listening isn’t silence either.
Thanks for chiming in…
I really focused on your statement to ask two questions before making a statement…. something that I am going to work on! Excellent post. Thank you.
No.2 is SO true.. The instance in my life actually was a medical professional, to whom I made clear she was merely a consult, and not my therapist.
I’ve spent the last hour asking if you would mind if I re=posted this post to demonstrate some issues. If I write a thesis on my blog, no one will read it. So I’d like to use your points in telling a few stories. I will certainly give you credit, a bio( whatever you like) and all your links. Honestly, after writing that monster of a comment, I was thinking about your strength in using 300 words, and that’s something I have to do more of.
So, would you mind If I merely quoted one or two of the principles? This woman made my life a living hell, and I would not be suffering this much were it not for her. Luckily I had other doctors writing notes concurrent to what she was doing. In a way, though, it’s a gift. I knew by the third visit something was really wrong with her. I know how to report people, and I’m sad to say there are so MANY abusive doctors when it comes to pain. If I meet them, even though it costs me a pound of flesh, I can ensure they will never victimize another pain patient.
Dan, you are responsible for planting not seeds, but seedlings, and I have one or two baby oaks trees in there. I’m shaping my vision, and I may not begin in earnest for 3-4 years, but contemplation helps me get through the rough patches.
Tomorrow isn’t promised, so I wanted to make sure you and your followers/ readers have made a tremendous difference in my life. Without all of you, I may have never been able to think more like myself, so thanks. (And yes, that felt good to say, b/c it heightens my feelings of gratitude straight from my heart.)
I don’t know if I told you I fractured my hip; I tend to babble when I’ve been isolated in bed for so long, unable to sit much. Still hasn’t healed completely.
If you don’t approve of using the points in this post, let me know, and I won’t take it personally.
I’ve been meaning to get my people reading you (not staff, my people as in my tribe, my community at APF and USPF.) Very much liked the post on recruiting volunteers.
May you always swim in clean, sweet tides, Linda
A few years back, I recorded a conversation I had with my boss. I thought (before listening to the recording) that I put my arguments across confidently and well.
But later when I heard the recording, I realized how wrong I was. The choice of my words reflected anything but measured confidence – no wonder, I didn’t get the outcome I wanted – the opportunity to sell that idea was lost for ever. With mindless choice of words (that only gave an impression of being clumsy and shy), I let the opportunity slip through.
“We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” – how true! Thanks for this post.
I wish more people followed this advice. Thanks for the tips.
What we say and how we say it is important as leaders. Great points on the ” the power of words”. I believe the fewer words the better. Because if we over talk we put ourselves in a position to say something we should not. I have seen many leaders over talk and take control of the conversation.
Love your #5. I’ve noticed that when people ramble or blab on, it tends to deflate the conversation. I have to catch myself from doing that at times.
I understand the gist of #3. “Always answer a question with a question.” In certain scenes this is often used to avoid a question. (This often occurs in politics.) It is done by never giving an answer, but just questions. If you ask a yes or no or simple answer question, I can answer your question and then follow it up with a add on question.
Thank you Dan!
Awesome stuff! One thing I have always been told is that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Therefore we shouldmlisten twice as much as we speak. Heck, we might actually learn something if we turn off our mouth and turn on our ears!