“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Remember this school-yard rhyme that we all learned early in life? If only it were true! Grade school gave us that little limerick along with lessons about spelling, grammar and punctuation. What we weren’t taught is that the little strings of letters that come together to form the words we use can shape the reader’s or listener’s understanding of reality – and THAT is what gives words so much power!
We read words in articles and books about events that are occurring in other areas of the country or places in the world that we’ve never been to. These articles help to form our understanding of the events that are taking place in those communities. Modern technology has put a camera in the hands of billions of people around the globe who can now add video to those words to help add clarity to their message that may get lost in words alone. What’s interesting is how two different people at the same event can hear and see two different stories – that are often retold through the sound bites that resonate with that particular witness.
Sound bites aren’t just the extracts from evening news and campaign speeches. You may replay the memory of a parent telling you “You can do anything that you put your mind to!”; or of the colleague who said “I couldn’t have gotten this task done without your help.” Those sound bites stay in your mind and shape the way you see those people. On a more negative note, you may have heard a former boss make a comment in a frustrated moment about “those spoiled millennials,” and found yourself replaying that sound bite in your mind each time that you watched her navigate a challenge with an employee from that generation.
Words we use intentionally and unintentionally have an impact on our audiences that can last so much longer than the time it takes to read or speak the words themselves. A misspoken phrase can be interpreted as disrespectful or even cruel, while a positive message can become someone’s motivation for a day or even a lifetime.
Leverage The Power Of Words To Build A Healthy Work Culture
Now is the time to remove language barriers that may be causing some of the miscommunications in many work places. Are you speaking a language that resonates with your work force? This isn’t in reference to English versus non-English speaking languages. (Most companies are actually very responsible about tending to the diversity of spoken languages in their workforce these days.) Today, we need to ensure that we’re speaking in the language of respect. Are we using appropriate terminology in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) conversations? Using the correct terminology can eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the instances of misunderstandings. We encourage employers to become familiar with the appropriate verbiage so that you can powerfully communicate the value of diversity equity and inclusion in your workplace, thereby building a Culture of Respect! In fact, EANE members are encouraged to reference the glossary of terms that we’ve made available in our Culture of Respect Toolkit.
Think about those sound bites that have significantly impacted your opinions of various situations, people or organizations. When individuals in an organization commit to using words that build respect and encourage a sense of belonging they see an increased level of engagement from not only the employees who are using those words but the employees who are hearing those words.
EANE members are encouraged to review the Culture of Respect self-assessment questions that we’ve outlined to help you and your colleagues evaluate your own efforts towards a healthy DEI mentality in your organization. You can even request a free 30-minute consultation with a member of our professional staff. Together, we will help you leverage the power of words and actions that simultaneously increase a sense of belonging that will motivate your team!