Did you ever ask yourself, “Was it something I said?” when you thought you were so clear? Have you ever felt your words were falling on deaf ears or realized, mid-conversation, that you lost people’s full attention? Welcome to the world of miscommunication and the power of words.
The Power of Words
A book in the Bible, Proverbs 18:21, shares, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Words can build up or tear down. They can help you win business or be a catalyst for losing it.
Words can mean completely different things to different people. Even the inflection in your voice can win people over or push them away. That’s the priority of the phrase, “It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it.” If you’re not acutely aware of how people are affected by words, you will experience communication disconnects and miss potential business opportunities.
EXAMPLE: Nearly four years ago, my wife and I kept sensing a nagging angst and tension. We felt a change coming. Through the years, we’ve learned to recognize these feelings. For us, those words never held negative connotations. Yet, in sharing, we realized people’s perceptions were different. Some misinterpreted our experience altogether and made negative assumptions based on their perspective.
Words Are Defined by Personal Experience
An often overlooked fact is that someone’s perception of what you’re communicating will always override what you’re saying. In other words, they listen based on their personal experiences, filters, and perceptions. So, in our use of angst and tension, some assumed it represented something negative and shared concerns from a place of fear. We realized we had to qualify our words and clarify our vision. People can have altogether different definitions for the words you use. For us, angst and tension, are indicators for potential positive change and growth. They wake us up and cause us to be a little more intentional as we navigate certain seasons. It’s critical to qualify your communication and make sure people understand exactly what you want them to hear.
The Art and Skill of Communication
There is an art and skill to communication. The skill is understanding how words impact people uniquely. Having a command of the English language and etymology (the study of words) is key, but more importantly, the art of communication must also be more personal. It must begin with self-awareness, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), mindful insight about the words you choose, the tone you use, and how they are received. Remember, empathy should be foundational in all of your communication.
This content fills a whole communication course (one our team teaches), but here are a few strategies you can implement now to help avoid miscommunication later:
1. Ask people what they mean by the words they choose. They may have a different definition. Consider asking, “Tell me about that word. What do you mean by it? How would you define it?”
2. Before you lose your listener’s attention, periodically ask, “Does this make sense? Or Am I making sense?” Some people share away without a break, not realizing the listener needs clarification. Before you lose your listener, engage with them. Confirm they’re tracking with you.
3. Ask them to rephrase what you’re saying. Interestingly, some will misinterpret your point entirely, especially in touchy or heated conversations. Whether in a business dialog, or communication with your mate, make sure sensitive conversations are delivered and received with the most positive and kind intentions.
4. People are more visual than audible. In a business meeting, consider creating a visual guide or graph of the communication flow.
I hope this brief discussion on the power of words is something that will benefit you immediately and impact your business in the most positive ways!
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