It’s wonderful to hear simple words that trigger a response. While I fidgeted at a writer’s conference, in another taupe colored hotel ballroom, a gentleman hopped on stage. He breezed through a few stories of his career happenstances. I became connected to this man immediately. No, there was no attraction. It was a mental connection. He elicited the connection because his word choice was delightful. He wasn’t flamboyant. He was calm. He wasn’t bouncing around the stage or overly modulating his speech to attract attention. He simply told good, relevant stores with words that leapt off the stage.
He described an office where he had been interviewed as a having “burled, blonde bookcases.” Say no more, I thought. I was in the room. He said so much more about the office then if he had said “lined with books”. His words painted the picture. He wasn’t even among the writers in the speaker line up, yet he knew the power of words. He was a literary agent.
I think about the criticality of choosing words when communicating with all types of people. A strong vocabulary is like an shiny tool box, holding all the other skills together as protection, transportation or the display of the other skills.
If someone provides a report to you, think about the different responses you could garner, based on your choice of feedback.
This report is crap.
This report is not going to work.
This report is disappointing.
This report could get us sued.
This report is inaccurate.
All of these statements could be used to describe the same issue you have with the report. Yet, you will elicit very different responses to actions from each.
If you are presenting a new decision or policy, give clues to the process and articulate with transparency. Is this the pragmatic decision or was it agonizing to make. Is the policy designed to liberate or motivate/refine or contain. Your audience will better understand what they need to do with the information, if you illustrate the intent or process clearly.
Leaders and presenters can utilize words to move people. I found the TV series West Wing invigorating, largely due to their wit and intelligence. The predominate way they could showcase those traits was their word choice. It wasn’t like we could see the ramifications of their policy decision or their real reports. We listened and responded to their articulate conversations.
I am on a quest of enhanced vocabulary utilization. There is no desire to be a show off. I simply want to articulate with more vibrant words to create the imagery within the audience’s mind.
The book “Poemcrazy Freeing Your Life With Words” by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge speaks of collecting words. To the average business person her approach may seem extreme. She collects words for writing poetry. Yet if professionals can be business wisdom through tales of savage wars or of fridge, death defying despair on a mountain tragic expedition; then they can build word skills from a poet!
If you have a presentation looming on the near or distant horizon of your calendar, consider that end goal of people standing, rising, leaping or SHOOTING out of their chairs at the end. Which word is it? If it will warm your heart if they take notes during your presentation, ponder your word choice. Do you desire a room full of doodling pencils, scratching pens or frantic writing devices?
I am not advocating the use of words that do not fit you or your personality. You shouldn’t leave your audience needing a dictionary while listening to you, or they will find colorful words to describe YOU. Pompous or arrogant are not the target descriptors desired. Curate words you love to use. You may find you can use fewer words, yet the picture will be more inspired and more vivid.
About the Author: Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.