When I listen I try to hear what’s being said. I aim to be straight talking and I’m told that although I shoot from the hip I do so with a spoonful of sugar.
Did you understand that last sentence? Some may think it refers to a cowboy movie or to Mary Poppins. It’s full of colloquial language that would baffle Google Translate. I edit myself when writing because I know that words are very powerful. Words are strong enough to build or burn bridges, encourage endeavours or crush confidence, intimidate individuals or motivate the masses. Words frequently pour out from our mouths with no thought or imagination, and no awareness of the influence they have.
Words mean different things to different people. In Wales if someone is ‘lush’ they are very attractive, not fond of a drink. In Scotland ‘not bad’ means pretty good. Words come in all shapes and sizes. There’s ‘big fancy’ words used by those with a broad vocabulary. There’s ‘text speak’ words used by those with little time and an addiction to their mobile, and there’s code words, used by us all, to baffle anyone outside the sector or department we work in.
In situations of conflict it’s blatantly obvious to suggest that we choose our words carefully. But what does that really mean? For the sake of this article let’s imagine that conflict simply refers to a situation where diplomacy is required. For example asking another person to change their behaviour because it impacts on your wellbeing, ability to perform or happiness on some level. An example being the downstairs neighbour who slams the door every time they come home at midnight, waking your finally asleep child. The colleague who always uses the last of the milk, pretends not to notice then puts the empty carton back in the fridge (that would tip anyone over the edge). Your Significant Someone …well you’re probably thinking of something they do that irks you, but for today you’re keeping schtum.
Maybe you’re waiting until there’s a good time to bring the subject up? Maybe you’re planning to keep your gas at a peep whilst subconsciously piling high all the little frustrations…. until you lose the rag and go into meltdown. The mole hill becomes a mountain. You’re angry. They’re caught off guard, offended and angry.
Words are exchanged, egos are bruised. Barriers are up.
It’s hard to go back to where you were. Sure, you’re an adult, you can continue to work/ live next door to/ share a bed with this person. You can be professional/ neighbourly / stay crazy in love. You can leave it all behind and move forward with no grudges, no hard feelings, no loss of respect or self-esteem. Of course you can, right?
Sometimes it's a good idea to take stock, hold the bus a minute and value the weight of our words. Why is a social media consultant writing about this topic? When managing your reputation online it's important to know how to handle situations that have the potential to tip things over the edge. That's right, people who put empty milk cartons back in the fridge and who slam doors at midnight are on social networks too. How are you going to handle them?
Comments always welcome.
Thanks for reading. Annie Boyd is a marketing consultant specialising in social media strategy with extensive experience. Her clients range from large public sector organisations to SME's. She enjoys working with individuals or teams who are open to new ideas and who like to find solutions rather than look at problems. Get in touch if you'd like to have a chat about working together.