In a time when words are so frequently flung around on the public stage to hurt and humiliate, I invite you to join me for a quick review of how we each contribute to the elevation or dehumanization of others. Our words are incredibly powerful and can shred another’s psyche or inspire them to incredible new heights. While this is true in a personal way – think about how you talk to the kiddos in your life – it’s also true professionally and in terms of building a culture that fosters well-being.

Here’s a simple three-step approach to  powerfully master the words you use and create a better world:

Listen to Yourself

This is not a plea to pay attention to your intuition, your quiet inner voice, or your conscience. This is a literal request to pay attention to the words you use every day. Did you treat that deli worker with respect? Did you dismiss the concerns of a junior colleague? Did you minimize the success of a peer? Every time we speak we have the opportunity to change the climate. Take that potential seriously and use it to benefit your work, your team, and the greater good. Take a look at this blog for some tips on what to say to keep it positive when you’re in a tight spot.

Be Honest

It’s easy to go along with the crowd in praising or denigrating a person, idea, or perspective. Taking the time to think through your own assessment can be a bit of a chore. Once you know exactly where you stand, you can work to deliver your thoughts honestly. Agreeing for expediency or to please someone else only works if you really have no vested interest in the outcome and you don’t expect to have a long-term relationship. Disagreeing productively or offering up alternative solutions can take some practice. Both skills are worth your effort and no, honesty doesn’t always require confrontation.

Find Focus

Finger-pointing and what-aboutism are rampant in today’s public discourse. Don’t be a part of that mayhem. Focus on your core messages, find effective ways to communicate your concerns, and resist the impulse to take the bait thrown out by those who thrive on chaos. One handy way to maintain focus is the “yes, and” technique. Note that you hear them (that’s the “yes”) then go back to your point (that’s the “and”). In practice it might look like this:

“We need to choose caterer for the board meeting.”
“Two board members are vegan.”
“Yes they are. What caterers do we know who can accommodate for that?”

Simple, clean, focused.

Whatever conversations you find yourself having today, I hope you remember that your words matter. You can change someone’s outlook, smash their psyche, or help them to find their better angels. Choose wisely.

Talk to you next week,

Amber D. Nelson



P.S. My conversation with last week Michelle Perkins on Limit Free Life Radio is now available on Facebook. Take a listen here for tips on how to engage your language of leadership.


Cover of Amber Nelson's book, "Talk to Me"

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