In August 2015, Mohammed Qahtani won the Toastmasters International title of World Champions of Public Speaking. He competed against 33,000 competitors from around the world for this honor. His speech was entitled “The Power of Words” and it is truly worth the viewing. One of the pieces I really liked was his mention that “a simple choice of word can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.”
As an example, let us think about the following statements:
- The first car smashed into the other car.
- The first car bumped into the other car.
Reading the first statement carries with it implications of intention, speed, and violence. What comes to mind is injury, and costly repairs. The second statement sounds like it was accidental, low-speed, low-impact and no injuries. Both statements could be heard in the same courtroom during a dispute over a car accident. It is fairly easy to determine which statement belongs to the lawyer of each driver.
Just as the words can be used to sway a jury’s decision, they can also make or break your relationships with others. This often pops into my mind because I have been guilty for some time of using the word “should” when it is better to use “could”. The word “should” in most contexts implies that I am giving a veiled directive, or telling the individual that I know better than they do. On the other hand, using “could” implies a collaborative approach.
Do you feel frustrated when people tell you that you “should” do something? Personally, I prefer suggestions over directives. Through personal experience, it seems most people would rather be part of a team than to be bossed around. Being part of a team means that everyone has an opportunity to know why. “Could” statements foster this kind of environment, while “should” statements can weaken it.
Whether dealing with employees, volunteers, or family, significant thought should be put into the words that we use. They have the power to help just as much as hurt, and it is up to us to consider others. Another piece of this, though, is the permanence of the words. With the popularity of social networking, we live in a time where our words posted online become permanent records. So consider that when posting a comment about that video on youtube.
When composing an email, or a message to be delivered to others, you must consider the implications of the words you choose. Consider how the message makes you feel, or ask someone to listen and critique. The more important the message, the greater attention and care you should dedicate to its delivery.