We celebrate efficiency.
I love efficiency, too. In work processes. In our choice of language, spoken and written.
Well, quick stop. There are a few exceptions, dear reader. The exceptions apply to the moment when we start a communication. Any communication – a formal presentation, a random conversation, a virtual 1-1.
How often have you sat in a business meeting when Joe jumps right to what I call “procedural language?” Crisp, efficient, spare, with little personal color added. Hi, I’m Joe Petersen, and I’m here to give you an update on our Operational Excellence activities. Here is my agenda …
Efficient, yes. But really, Joe - you sound like a written memo. You expect me to care?
Entice me. Seduce me. Invite me in.
Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs."Hamza Yusuf, Neo-Islamic Scholar
Let’s dwell on this formal context for a moment, because the same principle applies to any setting in which we speak, formal or not. In a formal setting, I look for language cues that invite me. Phrases such as I’m happy to speak with you today or I have been looking forward to spending this hour with you or I’m thrilled that you all showed up today.
Basic welcoming words. They make me feel good.
I offer you examples of language that I like and that, depending on the circumstance, I may use. It is language that feels sincere to me when I say it – provided, of course, that it matches my sentiment about the social situation I find myself in.
Please do not use my language. I urge you to find your own words. And stay away from well-trodden cliches like Thank you for taking time out of your busy day. That is not a welcome – it’s a condescending platitude.
People with impoverished vocabularies, writes success guru Tony Robbins, love emotionally impoverished lives. People with rich vocabularies have a multihued palette of colors with which to paint their life’s experience, not only for others, but for themselves, as well.
Invitational language is a crucial part of this palette, and emotional cue words are a core ingredient of invitational language.
Yup, good old-fashioned adjectives. The sort of words that we have banished from most transactional communication these days.
There are 2 types of phrases that draw our conversation partner deeper into a conversation. Phrases that I offer at the start of a conversation, as just indicated, and phrases that I say in response to a comment made by another. The sample phrases below are intended as guidance and inspiration.
Do you read these phrases and think to yourself Huhmmm, I’m not comfortable using that kind of language! I would never say that. That just isn’t me!
Why not flip this line of thinking to I’m not fully comfortable using such language – yet! In my coaching practice, I frequently coach folks who talk too little, folks who talk too much – and folks who use overly fancy language.
Folks who, quite simply, don’t have Tony Robbins’s multihued palette.
Here’s how I explore language with a client. You can easily do this on your own.
Andrea is the Head of US Sales Training for a well-known biotech company. Much of her communication with her team takes place during monthly Zoom calls. Feedback from the team revealed that many folks feel that Melissa isn’t sufficiently engaging during these monthly meetings.
As Andrea and I reviewed this feedback, she observed that she doesn’t really know how to make fully appreciative comments. I realize that all I ever say is ‘That’s great …!’
Little invitation. No seduction.
Andrea’s assignment? Find 8 other ways of saying That’s great and write them down. Intentional vocabulary expansion. Sounds simple, right?
8 phrases are actually a whole lot of language. Andrea came up with 6. But once Andrea started using these 6 phrases in her meetings, she felt a new sense of confidence in responding to the many comments folks made during her monthly calls. Responding became a lot more fun. And this sense of fun was felt by others, immediately.
Go and experiment with verbal cues that invite. Seduce your conversation partners. Your conversations will be immeasurably enriched.