Sticks and Stones…

10.19.12 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

I was driving to Houston recently and scanning radio stations when I heard a song by Lady Gaga playing. The first words I hear are the refrain “sticks and stones may break my bones….” A couple of comments: three years ago I predicted that by this time we would never remember her name; she was a “flash in the pan!” And secondly, this song’s lyrics are horrible! Not my “cup of tea” at all. As for my prediction skills, obviously I underestimated her popularity.

When I heard those words though, I was reminded of the oft cited communications impact (I think Toastmasters International still emphasizes this) that 93% of what you communicate is non-verbal. That ties with the end of the above phrase “and words will never hurt.”

What’s the point? Word choice is VERY important when communicating for you to become a communication’s expert and an UnCommon Leader. And, words not only hurt, they can damage a relationship beyond repair!

Let’s take the words YOU and ALWAYS. Let’s say we have a disagreement of some sort and I say these words:

You always say mean things to me. You don’t understand me. You don’t care about me!”

The word you just became a dagger and the word always is a global term that is never true….just kidding! What if we changed this to the following:

“I am really hurt by what was just said. It seems that I’m not being understood, and it sounds as if I’m not valued.”

Which one of these two exchanges would have the best chance of producing a productive dialogue? Exactly. The second set of sentences.

Here’s another example in a work situation:

“Your performance is abysmal. You don’t have the skills to get this job done, and if you don’t shape up and get with the program, I’ll find someone who will!”

I know. That NEVER happens in the corporate world, does it? Trust me. Some of your managers had that exact conversation with a direct report today! How could this be rephrased to produce a productive dialogue?

“Ed, we have performance standards here at our company. Those are not being met by the work you are doing. I am going to develop a performance improvement plan for you that I’ll present on Friday. Once we go over that information, I will expect a higher level of performance. And, I will want to know what tools, education, and coaching you will need to make that happen.”

Yes, there are times when the word you should be used, and this is one of those. Direct communications is necessary at times to make sure that the person knows what issues exist and that they are responsible.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, AND words can shoot daggers through my heart. Let’s teach that “ditty” to our children!

Onward & Upward!

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