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The Power of Words

Your language with your team has the ability  to create a culture where your team feel respected, welcomed, and valued for their insights and contributions. Words can welcome, embrace, accept, and support, behavior and language also can be exclusive, opposing, and minimizing. If you want to embrace a “language overall”, you can make a significant impact be paying attention. This is important regardless of the format, be it –  live meeting,  conference call,  emails, phone calls and of course face to face.

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Let’s look at  positive and inclusive language first:

  • Voicing support for what the speaker said and, if necessary, clarifying any comment that might be interpreted negatively.
  • Always provide  positive and authentic feedback, highlighting what  fits the goals,  for others’ ideas and recommendations.
  • Invite those who have not spoken to comment which makes sure everyone has an opportunity to provide input.
  • It’s a big bonus, because when people feel valued, respected, and included, they are more likely to be highly engaged, produce exceptional results, and drive business success.

On the other hand, these approaches or comments are often seen as negative or exclusive:

  • Saying “Now we can move on to the important items” implies that the previous items or presentations were of little value. Ouch! This happens so often, it is quite unbelievable. During training and large conferences prep your presenters to avoid these pitfalls. Presenters might be nervous, so encourage the most inclusive and positive language.
  • Using “us versus them” language does not help foster collaboration. We work towards one goal – right?
  • Interrupting when others are still speaking or talking over them.
  • Nonverbal facial and body expressions (crossed arms, eye rolls) that are not welcoming or encouraging to the speakers.
  • We are an  acronym society, but define them – so  that are universally understood.
  • Mispronouncing or misspelling someone’s name.  Feels bad, sounds bad. it can be handled easily, ask the person to help you get it right. Or ask beforehand, come prepared.

Negative messages are unintended and often happen unconsciously, however, experience and research show they can lower team members’ morale, performance, and feelings of inclusion. With all the time you spend on team building, don’t blow it on words that are unintended.

Some Important Do’s

  • Do allow time for questions, disagreement and discussion. Don’t dismiss the opinions of others.
  • Do provide constructive feedback. Make sure your summary or feedback does not undermines or belittle.
  • Do recognize the value and unique perspective others bring to the table. part of the strength of your team is in your different approaches. Don’t assume that you know more than others.

We want a happy team. Language plays a key role in our ability to create a culture where people feel respected, welcomed, and valued for their insights and contributions. When we use inclusive language it promotes engagement. It fosters acceptance, rather than resistance. It creates a shift toward shared goals, collaboration, and innovative thinking.

Words can have consequences beyond the audience you are speaking to in the room or on a call. Make sure you are using them in a way that enlightens, unites, and inspires.

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