Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS -

Think be­fore you speak/write — Think­ing through the goals and ob­jec­tives of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion, be it a brief sen­tence or a long para­graph, en­sures off-hand, spu­ri­ous com­ments are avoided. Ex­am­ine who the au­di­ence is, what the is­sue is and what the sen­si­tiv­i­ties are be­fore re­spond­ing. Be­lieve me, more ca­reers have been dam­aged by “off the cuff” com­ments than any­thing else.

Con­firm your en­vi­ron­ment — Lan­guage is an im­por­tant key to suc­cess­fully per­suad­ing oth­ers, com­mu­ni­cat­ing in­ten­tions and con­trol­ling one’s en­vi­ron­ment. This means you must be care­ful, be­cause what is ap­pro­pri­ate and what is ef­fec­tive in a busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment may not be ef­fec­tive in a ca­sual en­vi­ron­ment. You need to know the dif­fer­ence and com­mu­ni­cate ac­cord­ingly.

Choose vo­cab­u­lary wisely — You may not re­al­ize it, but your vo­cab­u­lary ac­tu­ally be­comes your iden­tity. Too many so­phis­ti­cated mul­ti­syl­labic words don’t im­press peo­ple; in­stead, you cre­ate an im­age of ar­ro­gance that makes oth­ers feel less im­por­tant. On the other hand, too many col­lo­qui­alisms and es­pe­cially foul lan­guage will cause peo­ple to dis­count your com­ments and even­tu­ally avoid you al­to­gether. Choose the right words for the right sit­u­a­tion and choose them care­fully.

Avoid la­belling oth­ers — Gen­er­al­iz­ing and la­belling oth­ers is known as twisted think­ing that in turn only serves to cre­ate a fea­ture­less “other” or “them” upon which peo­ple can fling ar­rows of blame. La­belling be­hav­iour un­doubt­edly leads to prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Avoid jar­gon — Ev­ery busi­ness and or­ga­ni­za­tion has its own ab­bre­vi­a­tions and jar­gon and that’s where these should stay. To use this ter­mi­nol­ogy in a less for­mal, per­sonal sit­u­a­tion only serves to cre­ate mis­un­der­stand­ing and/or no un­der­stand­ing at all. Peo­ple will feel left out and alien­ated, as well as ir­ri­tated, and your cred­i­bil­ity will de­te­ri­o­rate.

Avoid vague words or phrases — Com­mon words such as “al­ways,” “never,” “al­most,” and “all” are con­sid­ered to be vague words that have no value and can re­sult in mis­in­for­ma­tion. In some cases, a sin­is­ter reader might twist your in­for­ma­tion while oth­ers will ques­tion your facts. Sup­port what you say with con­crete ev­i­dence rather than opin­ion.

Change your ques­tions — Change your in­ter­nal ques­tions from ask­ing who is at fault and/or what mis­take you made to fo­cus­ing ques­tions on what the other per­son is think­ing and feel­ing. Ask what as­sump­tions you are mak­ing, what facts sup­port the sit­u­a­tion, what’s best to do to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion and what you have learned.

Han­dle crit­i­cism ef­fec­tively — Crit­i­cism is of­ten ex­pe­ri­enced as blame and judg­ment that in turn makes you feel like a vic­tim. Rather than re­spond­ing to crit­i­cism in a pas­sive or ag­gres­sive man­ner, rec­og­nize the in­di­vid­ual’s frame of mind and re­spond in a straight­for­ward man­ner rather than be­ing de­fen­sive. Sched­ule a face-to-face meet­ing to straighten things out.

What you say stays! — Be­ware that today more than ever, what you write and what you say is now available more per­ma­nently through so many dif­fer­ent chan­nels. Your poorly cho­sen words can “go vi­ral” within min­utes and will be im­pos­si­ble to take back. Your com­ments and your rep­u­ta­tion will be “out there” in cy­berspace wait­ing for some­one to raise them up and throw them back in your face when you least ex­pect it.

As many in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, are find­ing out these days, vo­cab­u­lary, tone of voice and choice of words are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant in a world of In­ter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

While at one time in­di­vid­u­als could develop and man­age their pro­fes­sional im­age through sim­ple strate­gies such as dress for suc­cess backed by a good vo­cab­u­lary and ed­u­ca­tion, suc­cess today re­quires much more strat­egy, cau­tion and per­sonal over­sight of ev­ery el­e­ment of one’s be­hav­iour and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

As is clearly ev­i­dent by the 50th cel­e­bra­tion of King’s free­dom speech and the cur­rent “war of words” con­tro­versy caused by Robin­son, words do in­deed have im­mense power and a power that can last for years. This sug­gests ev­ery in­di­vid­ual needs to de­lib­er­ately “man­age” his or her choice of words ev­ery minute of the day. It means be­ing care­ful with one’s vo­cab­u­lary no mat­ter what com­mu­ni­ca­tion medium is used.

Bar­bara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP is pres­i­dent of Legacy Bowes Group. She can

be reached at barb@lega­cy­

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