January 05, 2015
I know that the language I use can affect how well I’m able to get my message across—it’s the business we’re in. But lately, after getting engaged to my fiancé, I’ve been seeing how the language I use changes the way I behave. As I make the shift from wild bachelor to responsible married man, I’ve been tasking myself with shifting my language from “I” to “We,” and “My” to “Our.” And it’s done something interesting to my relationship. The simple shift in language has made me behave more like part of the unit I now am—language may have helped me think more selflessly.
This got me thinking. In what other ways can the words we use change the way we, and those around us, behave? When you start to look for them, they’re all around us. In a great example, economist Keith Chen gave a well-known TED Talk on how our native language can affect our ability to save money. Closer to home, our company often produces media content to back up the research we provide—when we request this from our media team, we call it “pulling a clip.” The problem is, in many cases, there can be a lot of work involved in doing that—and “pull” implies a lack of effort compared to a word like “create.” If, instead, we asked our media team to “create a clip,” I think we could become more considerate of their time and effort in doing so.
From the titles of meeting invitations, to the water-cooler, to end-of-year reviews, language can improve how we all behave. The following are some language shifts that can help do that in the workplace: