Words are powerful. Having written for as long as I have, I know that sometimes words can make us feel things that we can’t always convey. Over the course of my writing tenure, I have found that words, while tenacious in their own right, do not have the power to make us something we are not, unless we let them. However, that does not take away the need to be cautious in what you say to your team and how you communicate your wishes or desires to them.
Think about the different words you’ve utilized to convey your goals or thoughts to your employees. How many of those words were effective? How many were not? What could you have said differently to your team that was tough, yet still motivating to them? As someone who has personally said, and been spoken to, with some of the words that I am about to share, it can be helpful to gain insight into using different words to share your message; words that can be just as powerful, but not nearly as negative.
Here is some input into why using the right words can help make all the difference in communicating with your team and in building your relationships with them.
Removing the word “Perfect”
Throughout the years, certain words have begun popping up in our everyday jargon that are not attainable or accurate. For instance, think of the word ‘perfectionist.’ Someone you may interview or have on your team may say, “Well, I’m a perfectionist and things just have to be perfect to work.” If you think about it, has anyone truly attained perfection? Maybe in their own way, they achieve ‘perfection,’ but truthfully, we know that ‘perfect’ is not only unattainable, but also unrealistic. If your employee is always aiming for ‘perfection,’ then they will never be happy with their work or achieve their goals.
Take the word ‘perfectio,’ out of your vocabulary in the workplace and use more realistic, yet positive, feedback for your team. For instance, say something like, “I loved your creativity and input on this project. You really achieved the goal of this project and went above and beyond to make it successful.” In taking out the word ‘perfect,’ you didn’t make the success of someone any less important but put it into a more realistic and achievable way that will keep your employee happy and ready to tackle their next project.
Along the opposite side of the spectrum, the word ‘failure’ is another one that sets up your team to feel as though their efforts were for nothing and futile. Someone once told me they don’t think of it as a failure, but just as not succeeding in the way you envisioned.
You can’t fail if you don’t try, and if you do try and it doesn’t go the way you expect, then it’s really not failing – is it? Sometimes (in actuality, most times), you don’t get it right on the first go. Saying something like, “We may not have succeeded in the way we wanted, but we will learn from this and continue our efforts in this project,” can keep your team motivated and focused on achieving the best result, without the negative feeling that they ‘failed’ you.
“You are wrong”
Words themselves are not always the issue, but the phrases we use to discuss an issue at hand can also be something we can try to say differently to those we work alongside. For instance, when you tell someone, “You are wrong,” you almost immediately put them in a defensive mode and ready to attack. It’s almost as if being ‘wrong’ is a personal slap to someone and shakes them to the core of what they believe and who they are as a person.
You may often see people use ‘being wrong’ in political discussions (or lack thereof) with people trying to prove their opinion as being right while believing anyone else is wrong that doesn’t agree with them. Instead of using the word ‘wrong,’ try saying something that may feel a little more uncomfortable to say, but is gentler and still conveys the message that you are trying to tell.
For example, you can say, “While I do see where you are coming from with that mindset, I disagree with it and would like to discuss this further to ensure that we can come to an understanding.” This message doesn’t change that you don’t agree with someone’s action, it just softens the message and puts them in a better place to change their mindset or alter their attitude on the issue.
Changing the “People pleaser” Mindset
A phrase that’s personal to my own heart, being a ‘people pleasure’ is a phrase that I have often used to describe myself. I didn’t realize that I was setting myself up to an unrealistic goal that can never be achieved in calling myself that.
How likely is it that you, or anyone on your team, will please everyone? Probably slim to none. If you know that someone on your team tends to try and make everyone happy, then communicate with them the need to do what’s right for them and their job, and not what seems right by everyone else’s standards. As you may know, everyone has their own definition of what ‘success’ or ‘being right’ means, so be sure to share that with those you work alongside of.
Reassuring your team that all they can do is try their best to be successful can really help in getting them away from the ‘people pleasing’ mindset to simply being happy without needing the affirmations of others.
Many of these examples will not only help your team, but also your own mindset. I find myself repeating many of these mantras to myself weekly, sometimes daily. It is imperative to not let yourself fall prey to negative thoughts or irrational labels. After all, we are only human and are neither perfect nor immune to the hardships of the workforce.
Remember, be kind to your team. Be kind to your company. But most importantly, be kind to yourself so that you can be the best boss in the most perfectly imperfect way possible.