The Power of Words

Words can create positive or negative responses

Am I the only one old enough to remember words we used to shout at our ‘friends’ when they would say something that would hurt our feelings?? … ’Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’ It wasn’t true then and it’s still not true today!

Words are powerful. That is true for the spoken word and the written word. It is true for words in an email or abbreviations of words in a text or tweet. Words can create powerful feelings and those feelings can be positive or negative.

I would imagine we have not only been the recipient of unthoughtful, unkind or hastily communicated words but we have probably also been the contributor to another person’s angst by the way we have communicated. Hastily communicated words can come back to haunt us; misconstrued meanings can run rampant through a relationship, whether that relationship is personal or professional. We have all heard the expression ‘perception is everything’ and – once someone has a negative perception about us - it takes a long time to correct that opinion. Sometimes their opinion of us never changes!

This past Spring two of my coworkers and I had the privilege of presenting a two-part seminar for our local Chamber of Commerce. Most of what we talked about was words - choosing words and the way they are communicated. In our seminar, we talked about spoken words but all the same rules apply to written words. In both cases, the tone or the attitude is interpreted by the recipient and we have only a certain amount of control in that process. Therefore, it is more important than ever to choose our words and tone carefully.

Since this is a business blog, I will discuss these thoughts in regards to business communication. Did you know that sometimes a caller or customer can be ‘neutral’ but you will inadvertently throw them into the ‘negative’ by using unthoughtful or unhelpful words or phrases?

Here are a few words that could change someone’s response to you:

‘I don’t know.’ ‘We can’t do that.’ ‘We don’t have that.’ ‘You have to….’ ‘No.’

Why would those simple phrases create so much distress?

It can create the impression that you don’t have the competence (or don’t care) to help them; dead end statements imply an unhelpful attitude. People need helpful direction or information, not a confrontation. This can make all the difference in the world if you are trying to provide a good level of customer service.

How about incorporating these into your repertoire?:

‘That’s a good question. Let me check and get an answer for you.’ ‘I’m not familiar with that; I’ll find out and let you know.’ ‘That is not something I typically handle; let me transfer you to ___, she will be able to help.’ ‘Unfortunately, we don’t carry that specific item but we do offer ____ and that will work in the same way.’ ‘I think the best way to handle this would be for you to …….’ ‘I can take care of this for you. Could you please help me by ….?’

The statements or phrases above indicate a high level of care and help for the client. Even if you are unable to do what they wanted, they will feel helped in some way.

We all have things that happen in our work day that drive us crazy and test our patience. Take a moment to think about things that can really push your ‘hot button’ and tempt you to respond in a less-than-gracious manner. Tweak some of these phrases to fit your needs and begin to use them in those moments when confronted with a frustrating situation. See what happens! I think you will find that your client’s perception of you (and therefore their perception of what you and/or your company can do for them) will be positive and that the communication will go more smoothly.

Deb Crown

Deb Crown

About Deb Crown

Towne Answering Service was established in 1968 to provide answering services for medical and commercial clients in the southeastern Pennsylvania area. Utilizing the best technology available at the time (the time was 1968 and the technology was a switchboard), Towne was able to establish a very faithful clientele, the majority of whom are still with us today. As time passed and technology advanced, so did the equipment. The answering service equipment evolved from switchboards to a basic computerized system with handwritten messages. From that, we were able to move to a fully computerized, paperless, state-of-the-art messaging system with digital lines and switching and were able to partner with our clients and provide a higher level of service.