This week, author Sean Mahar joins us to discuss the concept of his book, Stop Wasting Words: Leading Through Conscious Communication. What does it mean to waste one’s words, and what are people doing (or perhaps saying) to make their words wasteful?
If the idea of wasting your words is hard to grasp, try thinking of your words as your time. You surely wouldn’t be wasteful with precious time, and your words are no different. If a loved one were reaching their final moments, would you spend this time with them chattering about trivial and unimportant matters? Absolutely not! You would pour out words that are meaningful and touching. Doing this is important in far more life aspects than simply when it’s time to say goodbye to a loved one. Being intentional about using meaningful words has an effect on your relationships - both personal and professional - as well as your success.
There are words that accomplish things and there are words that can prolong or diminish success. In order to ensure we are using words that accomplish things, we must be using the right words and terminology in the correct settings. When you are meeting with a client, are you using words that matter to you or words that matter to them?
This results in the challenge of figuring out what words are meaningful to the person you are having the conversation with. Meanings of words are assigned by the receiver of the conversation - not the sender. In order to figure out what words will work for the receiver, you must abandon the meanings that you, the sender, hold to those words.
Let’s look at the word ‘table.’ You mention to someone that your table has a few weak spots. The person receiving your words may assign a different meaning to the word ‘table’ than what you intended. Is it a dining table? Chess table? Poker table? Pool table? Does it seat four, six, or eight people? Does it have chairs or specific accessories? They may even think of a completely different type of table, such as an SQL table. The person is now trying to nail down what exactly you mean by the word ‘table.’ As a result, you can’t accuse the receiver of misinterpreting your words. You can only blame yourself for not having found the best words to work with.
Words are also wasted when the sender does not attach any meaning to them, either. Take this situation as an example: A leader of a company schedules a meeting for employees to come together and share their thoughts about a certain issue. This meeting eventually became a “word throwing competition” where everyone showed up to simply throw their words out there, and no one was there to catch (receive) these words. At the end of the meeting, no one truly heard anyone else’s words, because no one was using their words as a way to get something done.
When we look at words as ways to tell people what to do, explain things, or give praise, we tend to throw some words out there and hope for the best. However, when we view words as a tool to accomplish something for someone - for example, you want to make them feel good about something - words are better received and understood. This often requires the prerequisite of learning about the person you are having the conversation with, such as their traits and preferences.
Next week, we will dive into how to have these better conversations and how to relate to people by no longer wasting your words.
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