As a business leader or individual, have you struggled with how to use words to get your meaning across, or feel that you completely bungled a conversation because the other person misunderstood what you meant to say?

Someone once said – words have the power to heal or destroy. I would say that the same words can have any number of meanings depending on how they are expressed. Once you understand that you have much better control of the outcome of any communication.

So let’s look at some of the different ways we can express the same thing.

Always remember that we humans are highly intelligent creatures with finely tuned antennae for the subtle nuances of communication.  Most of us pick up meaning we aren’t even aware of at the time.

Here’s an example…

Let’s say you want to tell someone to have a report to you in one week. There are some words that have presuppositions or suggestions of response built into them.

  • If implies choice, so avoid it – unless you want to allow choice (eg. saying “If you can get the report to me by next week, that would be great.” )
  • But negates whatever comes before  it in a sentence For example: “I’m going on holiday for a week, but I expect the report on time anyway.” ‘I expect the report on time but I’m going on holiday for a week’ – what stays in the mind is the last part of the sentence!
  • Try implies the possibility of failure. If success is what you want, use another word. (eg.saying  “Could you please try to get the report to me by next week?” will almost certainly prevent the report from being done with a reply like ‘I tried to get it done but X or Y stopped me

That is just a taste of why we must watch the words we use and use them to get the outcome we want.

What other words can you think of that are easily misunderstood?

For more information on how you can become a powerful business communicator, download a complimentary copy of our groundbreaking new ebook, “The Leader’s Guide to Clear and Effective Communication“.


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Roger Terry

Director of Training and Coaching at Evolution Training Ltd
Roger Terry is one of the world’s leading experts on applying NLP to drive excellence both professionally and personally. Roger leads seminars and consults with companies all over the world, including in the UK, USA, Europe and Middle East. He is the author of several books, including The Hidden Art of Interviewing, NLP and Qualitative Research, NLP for Teachers and The NLP Toolkit.

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