How you say it
In our day to day responsibilities, the words we use are so important. Growing up, tone was a big deal in our family, and my parents would often remind me that it is not just what you say but HOW you say it. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and have seen the way people talk to each other either break down walls or build up defenses.
Here are some thoughts, when choosing the way to communicate:
- Use Kind/Positive Words- We speak with our three year old at least once at day about the importance of what we have deemed as "kind words". This is not just "please" and "thank you" but "may I please have..." or "would you please..." instead of phrases like "I need..." or "give me...". We want to teach her how to honor God and respect others in the way she speaks to people. Proverbs 16:24 says Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. "Please" and "Thank you" are good. So are "I really appreciate you" and "Wow, you are the best" and "that is such a huge help"! Consider these options as well:
- Did you-->Have you been able to?
- Can you--> Would you be willing to?
- We have a meeting--> Excited to get together
- I have to go to --> I have the honor of attending
- Just wanted to see if it would be possible to
- Ask Questions/Don't Make Commands- People like to feel valued but not commanded. "Would you be willing to" will always get a better response than "I am going to need you to" .
- Cover, but Don't Micromanage- A lot of the job of an assistant is following up with others that they have completed the task your boss has requested. Remember that these people are often our co-workers (and sometimes even friends). It is important that we have a relationship with both respect and trust. We need to believe that the people we are communicating with are competent and also want the best for our organization. If we are always assuming they didn't get things done, there is a deeper conversation we need to have with them or our boss. So when talking with others, always assume the best. For example, "I know it's been a crazy week for you, but have you been able to...?" instead of "I am sure you haven't yet, but when you get a chance can you...?
- Invite Them to be a Problem Solver- This is great especially when communicating with customer service, airlines, billing departments, or anyone from whom we need help. Consider Proverbs 15:1- A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. People love to be part of a solution instead of being blamed for a problem. When calling someone about an issue try this phrase "I am having a problem and I am hoping you can help me solve it" or "Can you help me to understand this discrepancy?" Don't always assume they are in the wrong...and either way, in the end be sure to respond with gratitude and kindness for their help solving the problem.
- BONUS--- when calling someone, take down their name at the beginning of the conversation and use it 2-3 more times during the call. This reminds both of you that you are talking with a person with a name (a family, a life, and a soul)
- Regret with Grace- When your boss has to decline an opportunity, decline politely and humbly. It is an honor that they were considered, and it is important to recognize that and be grateful for it.
- Read Aloud Before Sending, or better yet Have Someone Else Read It- When sending difficult emails, it is always great to proofread, and even better to proofread aloud. Emails (and texts) do not enable us to use tone or body language to get our heart across. The way we write it may not be the way they hear it, so when in doubt ask someone else to read it (don't read it to them because we will use the tone we want them to hear).
- Be Sincere and Genuine-If you are an encourager, encourage. Be real, don’t fluff, but be kind. Remember that the people we communicate with are just that, PEOPLE. They may be in the middle of a tough day or challenging season. We have no idea what they are walking through. The way we talk with people should always add value, bring encouragement and shine a light in their darkness. Proverbs 12:25 reminds us that "anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up."
There is power, not just in what you say, but in HOW you say it. Today, let's use our words to build others up!