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Our Words Can Empower Us … Or … Disempower Us

Our Words Can Empower Us … Or … Disempower Us

Imagine if by focusing in on changing just a couple of words in your every day communications with your team, colleagues and customers, you could have more influence, impact and achieve improved results.  

The fact of the matter is … you can! 

From the moment we learn to talk, we influence our environment, those around us and our outcomes through the power of our words.  We use words to express our joy, fear, happiness, anger, frustrations and our deepest desires. The words we use have the power to inspire and motivate or discourage and debilitate.

So let me make a little confession here… I am a bit of a stickler for the words we use.  Not because I am any sort of wordsmith or have a Masters in English Literature, but because I have seen the impact our choice of words has on the effectiveness of our communication and on how we feel

Most of us, most of the time are not aware of the words we use. I have more than once interrupted a conversation with a client to highlight disempowering language and provide guidance to find a more empowering way to express the thought or idea. 

One client put it most eloquently for me.  Changing the words she uses on a regularly basics (and eliminating others) has “changed the colour of my world.”  The way she expresses herself now is empowering and inclusive.  She has improved her interactions with her team. Her improved communication skills and relationships have contributed to recent outstanding sales results.

Our gift of language is a bit like breathing … most of the time what we say to ourselves and to others is unconscious and we are completely oblivious to how our words affect us. 

Many of the words we use come with an emotional charge.  

When we use words stacked with negative emotions we trigger a physiological flight or fight response.  This response was designed to help us flee from the scary wild beast… not manage the everyday trials and tribulations of the modern work environment. 

Here are 5 words that come with an emotional charge and are worth avoiding.  Eliminate these words… and notice the difference in how you feel and the response you receive from those around you. 

1. I’m Overwhelmed – Think for a moment how you feel when you say something like “I feel overwhelmed.”  There is a sense of hopelessness and impossibility. 

Now imagine replacing the word overwhelmed with “I’m a bit busy” or “I have a challenging schedule” or “I am prioritising a heavy work load right now.”  The energy around the statement is lighter and it is filled with more possibly. 

2.  I’m Angry – To say you are “angry” about a situation such as an error made by one of your team members or a missed timeline on a project brings with it an emotional intensity.  Sometimes it is warranted and productive but most of the time to language the emotion we are feeling as anger will only heighten the emotion and could, in fact, intensify the situation.

Now imagine changing the description of your emotion to “being annoyed”, “disappointed” or “frustrated.”  It doesn’t mean you don’t feel angry but by changing the word you will minimise the intensity of the situation, giving you more chance of achieving an amicable resolution.

3. It’s Hard – When we say something is hard, it gives the impression that it is almost impossible to achieve.  When we replace it with the word “challenging” it gives the task or situation a greater sense of possibility and even a sense of excitement. 

4. I’ll Try – To try to do something presupposes failure and gives a sense of an attempt only and, in my view, is a bit of cop out! In the words of Yoda “Do or not do. There is no try.”  

5. I’m OK – when someone asks you how are you doing, instead of saying “fine” or “OK”, ramp up the emotional dial and say something like “I feel fabulous” or “I’m sensational!”  As simplistic as this sounds, it creates a new pattern in your neurology and you will receive a quick injection of happy hormones. 

Now it is your turn.  What words do you use on a consistent basis which are disempowering or negatively impact your emotions? 

If you don’t like the results you are getting, take a look at the words you are using and choose to be more selective.  Choose to select words that empower you and engage others.  Break old patterns and create new resourceful patterns that help you manage your emotions and have you noticed as a powerful communicator.

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The Risks Of Ignoring Your Network

Most of us recognise that having a strong professional network is an important element of achieving our career goals and aspirations. 

But how many of us actually make time to develop, nurture and grow our connections.  It is all too easy to get busy being busy in a rush to get everything on the “to do” list done, while neglecting the benefits that come from truly connecting and sharing with other professionals. 

Research by the McKinsey Leadership Project has found that “People with strong networks and good mentors enjoy more promotions, higher pay, and greater career satisfaction.  They feel a sense of belonging, which makes their lives meaningful.” 

So clearly this is important. 

How strong is your professional network? 

  • Who is in your network?
  • How connected to them are you?  Could you seek out their professional advice or support?
  • Is your network made up of people both within your organization and externally? 
  • Do you have a network of others within your profession to draw on to solve problems?
  • Do you have a mentor or a circle of trusted advisors?  Do you keep in touch?
  • How do you support those within your network?

Building your network is something that you need to work at and prioritise.  Imagine the benefits that would come from putting aside time every month to stay in touch and be available to help others.  You will be rewarded with stronger relationships, solutions to problems, keeping abreast of important information and the joy that comes from being of value to those in your network. 

Then there is the hidden job market that is suddenly available to you through those who know what you are good at and what you want from your career. 

My own networks were an invaluable source of advice, support and connections when I started out in business.  Friends, family and professional colleagues generously helped me to find resources, provided introductions to potential clients and were there for me to celebrate the wins and pick up the pieces when the going got tough.  

The idea of networking fills many with fear and trepidation. The good news is that the strength of your network has less to do with networking and much more about developing relationships.

By focusing on two-way, genuine and mutually beneficial relationships, the idea of building your network will go from being a daunting task to be avoided like the plague, to being a fulfilling, fun diversion from the day to day grind. 

A diverse network of friends, colleagues and associates is key to supporting your professional development and growth and to impact your sense of personal fulfilment.  By ignoring this critical element of your career growth, you will miss out on the potential benefits: inspiration, information, contacts, informal mentors, support, encouragement and potential job opportunities. 

Alone we can be strong… but together we can be stronger.  Surround yourself we people to support and help your growth, clear the pathway for opportunities to emerge and challenge you to strive for even more than you think is possible.

Who are you going to connect with over the next week, remembering that this is as much about what value you can add to them as it is about how they can add value to you?

LET'S CONNECT

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
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How is it that we can be busy all day… but at the end of the day feel like we have achieved so little?  The problem lies in the fact that we are so often busy … but not overly productive! Just because you are stuck at your desk all day working through a long list of tasks does not necessarily equate to being productive.Being busy gives us the belief that we are working hard and makes us feel like we are contributing, while in fact we are spinning our wheels going no where fast.

When we are merely busy we tend to get caught up in and focus on things that we think are important and need to be done like responding to emails, attending endless meetings and mindlessly implementing time consuming, ineffective processes.

Being busy may make you appear impressive, and give you an elevated sense of importance, but of course it is nothing more than an illusion.  Being busy does not equate to producing results.  Most often, being busy gets in the way of achieving the results we are ultimately capable of.

Some people, maybe even you, wear their busyness like a badge of honor.  When asked, “how are you?” have you ever answered “busy!” When we respond in this way, I wonder, are we seeking praise, acknowledgement or sympathy?

To be more productive is something entirely different from being busy. 

Being productive is working smarter not harder.  It is about putting your energy where you will get the greatest return on your efforts.   It is having clear goals backed up with a workable strategy to meet your targets and investing in the activities that will get you to your outcome as quickly as possible.

Pareto’s Principle also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, roughly 80% our effects come from 20% of the causes.

When we apply this to our role at work and as a leader, it looks a little like this;

  • 20% of our effort creates 80% of our results,
  • 20% of our customers generate 80% of our sales,
  • 20% of our team produce 80% of the innovation.

So believing this to be true, imagine the results we could achieve if we were to identify which 20% of our work created 80% of our results and spent more time and energy in this area!

Image the impact and influence you could have as a leader by focusing on what will really get you improved results.  And with the improved results comes more recognition, maximising the perceived value you bring to the team and ultimately… hopefully, a pay increase, promotion or opportunity to work on an exciting project.

3 Easy Steps To Becoming More Productive

1.  Review: Take a critical look at how you spend each day.  Record for at least a week how you spend each hour, then classify each task into one of the following categories

  1. Time waster or “busy work”
  2. Required important work with low to medium return
  3. Highly productive work with high return

2.  Identify: Identify the top 20% of activities that generate the highest return for you in terms of results.

Likewise, get brutally honest with yourself about what are your “time wasters,” and decide how you are going to best manage yourself around these.  This doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating them all together.  Some of our time wasters are what add spice and enjoyment to our workday.

3.  Act: Commit today to allocate more time and energy to these high return activities while eliminating or significantly limiting your engagement in “time wasting” activities.

I also find it helps to schedule the high impact activities into your day when you feel most alert and in a productive mood.  For me this is first thing in the morning.  So if this is you too…. resist the temptation to get lost in the mountains of emails you have waiting or engaging in chat on social media and get the important stuff done first!  And by morning coffee time you will be well on your way to a super productive day.

LET'S CONNECT

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
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Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

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Jane Benston

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