Keep Talking about your Words

Which words?

Your words.

Which ones?

Whatever ones are the most important to you: Which are the ones you want everyone to understand most clearly, and without confusion?

I’m somewhat of a stickler about words and their meanings, for our vocabulary is one of the most powerful tools we have at our ready disposal. Therefore, it drives me crazy how so many words in our spoken languages have more than one meaning.

Take for example, ‘word.’ Surely there can’t be confusion with that one!

Ready for this? Here’s what came up when I typed "define:word" in Google Search:

Definitions of word on the Web:

  • a
    unit of language that native speakers can identify; "words are the
    blocks from which sentences are made"; "he hardly said ten words all
    morning"
  • a brief statement; "he didn’t say a word about it" 
  • news: information about recent and important events; "they awaited news of the outcome" 
  • a verbal command for action; "when I give the word, charge!" 
  • discussion: an exchange of views on some topic; "we had a good discussion"; "we had a word or two about it" 
  • parole: a promise; "he gave his word" 
  • a word is a string of bits stored in computer memory; "large computers use words up to 64 bits long" 
  • Son: the divine word of God; the second person in the Trinity (incarnate in Jesus) 
  • password: a secret word or phrase known only to a restricted group; "he forgot the password" 
  • Bible: the sacred writings of the Christian religions; "he went to carry the Word to the heathen" 
  • give voice: put into words or an expression; "He formulated his concerns to the board of trustees"

Related phrases:    word of mouth   word processor   word processing   word wrap   microsoft word   stop word   word count   the word   key word   word up

"The internet is made up of words and enthusiasm."

~ Erin McKean: Redefining the dictionary. (a TED Talk)

Make it stop!

No… you want to keep it going!

Talk about your words as you use them. Have the words themselves be the topic of conversation; we recently had it happen here on Talking Story with the word ‘optimism’ and it was a great thing!

As a workplace coach I advise managers and leaders to create their own Language of Intention. We do it here, we do it on MWA Coaching and on Joyful Jubilant Learning, and you can do it in your own context, and within your own team.

Hawaiian words, English words, even made-up words (blunderrifix ring any bells?)” in a way it doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as there is agreement among those using them, so that understanding is consistently clear among those speaking the workplace language.

Define them, and then honor your definitions. Allow your usage to trump the dictionary ”“ I mean really, how many of your co-workers keep the dictionary handy when they talk story with you?

Still, there will always be certain words doomed to eternal misunderstanding, and others forever used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be (management versus leadership is a classic example).

What are we to do then?

Keep talking about them. Renew the conversation every time new players arrive on the scene, or as other variables change (‘economy’ is an interesting one right now).

Allow hot-button words to be the provocative triggers they have the potential to be. Turn their minefields of misunderstanding into fertile ground for conversation.

What results can be pretty fascinating. Conversation can lead to new agreements you hadn’t been aware you’d needed.

Here’s a great review:
The Best, Yet Most Underutilized Tool for Communication There Is.