By Kshitij Sharma, PCC
A few days back I was talking to a senior leader of an NGO. While referring to seeking donations for the organization, he said: “we need to catch these rich fellows who have a lot of surpluses”. I immediately became judgmental about him as his language was not matching the image I had about his organization. Very soon I concluded that his NGO extracts money and they might not use the money for a right purpose.
Whether I was right or wrong in my assessment is highly debatable, but the fact is that there is a high impact of our language on others. People form perceptions based on what they hear from us. Basis their perceptions, we either win them over or lose them forever. That’s why it’s significant that we know the art of the winning communication.
The language which we use is significant as it directly impacts our thoughts at a sub-conscious level. Our thoughts influence our actions, and our actions affect the outcomes that we get. For example in my growing up years I heard my elders saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Such language impacts our thought process at a deeper level. Especially at a tender age, it builds strong perceptions and belief systems about things which affect our decisions, our actions and hence our lives in driving results.
In the corporate context too, we sometimes unknowingly use disempowering language which has a significant impact on the mindset and performance of our colleagues. A lot of times while conducting executive coaching, I have heard leaders use words such as, “they lack this “, “their performance was horrible” etc. Such words can never motivate or inspire an employee to perform better.
A lot of times when we do not use the winning language we find ourselves in the midst of conflicts and uncomfortable relationship.
So what is the winning language?
Is it just an inspiring vocabulary which empowers and motivates an individual? Or is it more than that? The winning language is probably much more than that; it’s a state of being. Below mentioned 7 points captures the winning communication mantras that we can easily incorporate into our lives to bring forth transformation and success.
7 Winning Communication Mantras
- Awareness: The first and foremost thing for unleashing potential in this context is to become aware of the language that we are currently using. The easiest way is to seek feedback from people around you. It could be your direct reports, peers or your spouse /friend. You can ask them a direct question.” What statements from me excite you and what makes you feel low/drained out?
- Who is in control? : One of the aspects of the winning communication is to make the listener feel that they are in control. When the listeners think that they are in control, they are more open and receptive towards your ideas. For example, consider the following two statements by a leader
A: I would like you to make this report and ensure that it’s on my table before 6 pm today.
B: I need these reports by 6 pm today as it’s very critical for our department. Will you be able to help me with this getting on time, please?
What was the difference between A and B.? The message is similar in both the sentences however if you place the request as a question then there is higher possibility that the listener will be more inclined to consider your request. It makes the listener feel in control and enhances your power to get things done.
- Permission: Another attribute of the winning communication is to seek permission before giving any suggestion or idea. Listeners are more open to your suggestions if you seek permission before you give it.
- Humility: Authority, arrogance, and aggression can force people to listen or abide by you, but it will not inspire them to follow you. You can win people’s following when they willfully come to your side by their choice and not out of force or fear. Humility is the best state to have the winning communication. As an executive coach, I have worked with senior leaders who have an innate quality of humility. Such leaders always have a massive following within and outside the organization. On the other hand those of my clients who have an arrogance or have an aggressive style, more often have relationship problems with stakeholders.
- Winning Vocabulary: Leaders who are most successful always use winning vocabulary. When speaking about a person, they focus on the behavior and not the personality. For example, they do not say “you are always very rude when you speak to a client”, instead they say,” While speaking to the client I observed that your tone could have been polite. What do you think?” The focus in the former statement is on the personality of the person, whereas, in the latter, the focus is on the behavior. Secondly, the vocabulary used is not hurting. When people use language which is hurting, they lose the respect and hence the influence over others.
- Winning Temperament: Once Buddha was passing through a village. One person started abusing him. Buddha didn’t react and continued to walk out of the village with a serene smile. As he stepped out of the village, his agitated disciples couldn’t control and asked Buddha that why he didn’t say anything. To which the master responded “If someone doesn’t accept your gift, to whom does the gift belong? That is an excellent example of winning temperament. Similarly, in the corporate world, we tend to get into conflicts by taking no time to react. Instead of reacting if we take five deep breaths and then respond, we would be better placed to avoid unnecessary and meaningless conflicts.
- Winning Intent: At the heart of winning communication lies the winning intent. Very famous author and management guru, Stephen Covey has said, “What you ARE is so loud that I am not able to hear what you say”. Intent lies at the heart of communication and people can sense it even though it’s not expressed explicitly. A winning communication has an intent which is positive, contributing and growth-oriented.
Winning language comes when you are thinking from other’s perspective, experiencing them and empathizing. It preempts fears and anxiety of others and is full of reassurance and inspiration.