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Words Matter

Courtesy graphic

Courtesy graphic

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Many of us have heard the phrase “words matter,” or at least I have. On multiple occasions throughout my career, I was gruff and blunt with expressing my opinions to junior and senior members alike.

The question is, why do words matter?

The way we communicate is based upon our experiences, our beliefs and mostly our perspective. As I mature, I look back at a situation I placed myself into simply by opening my mouth at the wrong time with the wrong words. Instead of de-escalating the situation or resolving the issue I was tasked to solve, I failed to use the correct words to communicate my perspective. Instead, I viewed it from the Security Forces lens, instead of flipping and asking a question: “What do you think/what is the intended purpose?”

I was an Academy Military Trainer in Cadet Group 1 and we were getting introduced to the new Management Internal Control Toolset and I was frustrated by the added level of what I saw as micro-management. I was far too blunt, and an hour later I was talked to by the group superintendent and found myself promptly apologizing to the group commander.

By asking more questions, it allows you to listen and determine the real task at hand and most importantly the perspective of the individual or group you are working with. It will allow you to pause and consider the words to use to communicate your perspective in a way that others will understand, and thus be closer to an agreeable solution to the issue at hand.

Failure to consider someone else’s perspective has the potential to miss the point all together and create more problems by using the wrong words. In this fast-paced cyber communication world we live in, we can’t know how others will regard our message. Words matter on social media sites, community forums or blogs. As we post on the internet, our thoughts are out there and we cannot take them back. Even if we delete them, someone has seen them already.

Only you can control your brand and how you want to be seen, or how you want your persona to come across online. We all have a story and a thought to spread, but do you want to have that out there, or are your words going to attack or “flame” another person or group? You may only intend to counter another poster’s opinion, but if you use the wrong words, the reader’s perception may only see your words as an attack on them, versus a debate or counter point. When online, you cannot assume that everyone will read a post as you read it.

This is important to note, once it is out there it now represents and can be traced directly to you. This may be seen by supervisors, subordinates, and even family and friends. Are your words the correct words to further your perspective and persona, or is it going to harm both your personal and professional relationships? In our interconnected fast-paced, opinion-driven world, remember to pause and consider the correct perspective in communication and remember, words matter.