Guest Contribution by: Barry Davidson, Vice-President, Safe and Caring Board, Senior Advisor for the Canadian Crime Prevention Centre and Senior Safety Advisor to Amtac Professional Services.
Recently my daughter Megan was competing in 4H speaking competitions and she presented a speech that really got me thinking about how adults communicate and the way that communication determines healthy, positive relationships.
It became clear that even one word can become such a motivator or put down, depending on context!
Let’s look at the word “just.” It can be a very powerful word. You have the ability to reduce an amazing personal achievement, act of bravery, good deed or attribute to nothing by inserting it. Think of the last time you spoke about someone you knew and referred to them as “just a cab driver” or “just a secretary” or “just a cop.” What message does that actually send about your thoughts of them or their career?
When we work through the myriad of human conditions that affect our communities and relationships, we often over-complicate how we should be dealing with people on a daily basis. The core to that is how we communicate. While we know that body language accounts for more than 70% of acknowledged communications, I would suggest that verbal cues, although lesser in quantity, still have a drastic ability to define whether that communication is positive or negative.
Our society has evolved to a point where we shorten our messages, whether they are in an email, text or tweet. This has begun to emerge in face-to-face communication and perhaps this is a reason we are witnessing an increase in negative interactions, often labelled as disrespectful or bullying. Perhaps this often occurs by accident because the people communicating have not put enough forethought into what message they actually want to convey or the language they should use.
“Words matter and how we choose to state an idea is critical to what we want to
accomplish within our communities.”
In today’s world we do not need to be a scholar or English major to succeed, but I suggest we do need to become much more conscious of what we are saying and how we deliver the message. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words. If we consider how many of those words are used incorrectly on a daily basis, it is not surprising that we have communication and relationship issues. When we look at the word “just” as an example, it becomes clear that we have the ability to have a positive impact on those around us and, by extension, the world.
So the next time you are talking to or about someone and fall into the common vernacular of “he is just a teacher” or “just a volunteer,” think about what message you are sending. Then examine if that is your intention and why. Critical thinking applied to how we communicate will go a long way to building better relationships, achieving your goals and living life to the fullest.
On the other hand, I am just a strategist and community activist, so what would I know…
This article appeared in our June 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!