Mind your language

In the fourth article on coaching published during International Coaching Week, Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting encourages you to listen to the words people use to communicate with others and consider the impact of those words – on you and also on the person who spoke them.

“Words are the voice of the heart.” ~ Confucius, Chinese philosopher

“Talk to people in their own language. If you do it well, they'll say, 'God, he said exactly what I was thinking.' And when they begin to respect you, they'll follow you to the death.” ~ Lee Iacocca, US businessman

“Change your language and you change your thoughts.” ~ Karl Albrecht, German entrepreneur, founder of Aldi

Listen to the words people use to communicate with others. And consider the impact of those words – on you and also on the person who spoke them.

How do you feel when you ask someone how they are today and they say “not too bad”. Not TOO bad? To me that assumes that their norm is bad and today they are feeling slightly better! Compare that to hearing someone say that they feel ‘really great’.

Some years ago when I was working as an HR Manager, I was advising a colleague on how to deal with a challenging situation with one of his team members. We had a history of conflict, with him clearly feeling that I was telling him how to manage his team, yet committed to the right outcome for the organisation.

He did not want to follow the course of action that I was suggesting and I was concerned that if he implemented his desired course of action, there were big risks for the organisation. The conversation was getting more and more heated. I can remember feeling powerless and wondering how we could resolve the situation.

I remember sitting back and starting to really listen to what he was saying. He had a military background and I noticed that his language was full of military metaphors – “it feels like a battle which I do not intend to lose”. I started using similar language in response “but I’m not the enemy. We’re on the same side”.

His whole approach shifted and because we had started using the same language, he felt heard and we were eventually able to find a way forward that we were both happy with. Our working relationship improved too. It was a real breakthrough.

One of many powerful things about coaching is being listened to, really listened to by an expert listener. One of the International Coach Federation Core Coaching Competencies is active listening – the ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client's desires, and to support client self-expression

Your coach will ‘hold the space’ for you to talk about all kinds of things that are important to you. She will pick up on words that you use and work with them to increase your awareness and understanding of the issue you are discussing. All sorts of new understanding and insights come as a result of this process and that transformation provides you with choices about how to move forward.

Listen to the language you use and if it is not serving you well, change it and notice the response.

The earlier articles in this series are here, here and here.



Hilary Jeanes is a leadership coach, facilitator and HR Consultant.  She can be contacted on 01763 245323 or Hilary@PurpleLineConsulting.co.uk



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