Vincy Workplace
January 19, 2007

The power of words

I’ve been writing these columns now for 8 years and up until recently I thought I was a very professional, respectful person. I did say up until recently.

I was in conversation with a professional colleague and I was describing someone who had done everything in their power to infuriate me and I thought I had successfully practised every communication technique I know.{{more}}

So I began describing the person as an irresponsible, individual and I kept spewing a list of descriptive words that were less than flattering. Mid way through the conversation my professional colleague said, “ You shouldn’t speak like that and call people names.” I quickly defended with a “No I don’t normally do this but I am at my wits end and I have been so nice to this individual and I have been fair but they are pushing the limit.”

My professional colleague gently reminded me that you can be firm but there is no need to speak of or to someone this way. Of course, I came up with more defenses but then I paused and apologized. Yes, this individual had managed to push the right buttons but my being nice in the past does not give me a pass now to be disrespectful because I disagreed with their decisions.

Who do you have in your workplace that has already pushed your last nerve over the hill and the year has just begun?

What situations are you battling?

The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is an untruth especially in the workplace. Words can stop a promising career dead in its tracks or damage a reputation beyond repair.

Words probably cut deeper and leave unhealed, unseen wounds. As you interact with your colleagues this year, pledge to do the following.

1. Try not to speak in a demeaning, derogatory way of others especially when in the company of trusted colleagues. The fact that you can confide in someone does not give you the right to speak ill of another.

2. Think of the good qualities in the person who offended you. Sometimes people react in ways that they themselves don’t even understand.

3. If you are having a problem, include a neutral party who may be able to see the problem from an angle neither parties have considered.

4. Be willing to accept that you also may have contributed knowingly or unknowingly to the situation. Even if the majority of the blame can rest on another person’s shoulders.

5. Think positive and know that everyone is always doing the best they know how to do in the situation they are in.

Needless to say I learnt a lesson.

• Karen Hinds President/CEO – Workplace Success Group, Toll Free: 1-877-902-2775; Tel: 1-203-757-4103
Creator of The Workplace Success Program (TM)