Words Matter

How do the following phrases make you feel?

You must…You should…You have to…

Now, compare how these following phrases make you feel:

You can…You will…You are…

The following story is a great example of just how much words matter.

My best friend and I speak often. She has a very strong, direct personality. I like these qualities about her because I like to know where I stand. I realized though, I started avoiding telling her things because her directness was pushing some hot buttons for me. I started paying attention to what that was about for me.

One day we got into it when I shared my struggles with my teenager. Her response was, “you need to do this…” and he has to….” I realized it felt as though she was telling me what I should, need, have to, must DO. I barked at her, “Stop telling me what to do.” I found myself not able to hear her, even though she has raised her own teen, wants to help, and has good suggestions.

My friend’s drive to help me solve problems is a welcome quality; the way she presents herself negates it for me.

After expressing myself forcefully she opened up and shared how people get turned off by her because of her “strong ways.” She strongly and emotionally stated, “This is the way I am, and this is my tone of voice; I have opinions and am not afraid to express them, so people are just going to have to live with it.” Yet, I recognized the anguish it caused her that people get upset and turned off by her ‘way’.

We talked it out and realized it was a matter of words – because words matter.

I asked her to try and use different words to express the same opinion. For example, She changed, “You should just tell him he has to do what you say” to, “What will happen if you put your foot down?” The first phrase challenged me and put me on the defensive. The latter phrase empowered and supported me in finding a solution.

The words “should”, “could”, “but”, “try”, and “need”, for example, offer unconstructive connotations. Words such as “how”, “imagine”, “wonder”, for example, offer possibilities for consideration and a new approach. Now, when I tell my friend my teenager is going off the deep end, her words present possibilities rather than demands.

Changing the words, changed it for me as the receiver. I was able to hear her concerns and her counsel. As the speaker, my friend has had success with others as well. She shared, “when I can remember to use positive language, my interactions with others is completely different.”

Seems simple enough, BUT AND it takes practice; first it takes remembering to do it. Clear, forward-moving communication is a skill, and skills take practice to incorporate into one’s inherent behavior.

Action Step: Practice eliminating one negative word at a time from your vocabulary such as “should” and replace it with an empowering word such as “imagine.” You SHOULD will be able to observe how it transforms your communication and positively impacts outcomes with others.

Emily Bass inspires great leadership by seeing the potential in others and helping them move forward among the challenges of the work place and in learning environments. She is currently fulfilling her passion to make the dreams of success for others come true through her Adventure Leadership SummitAssessment-Based Executive Coaching and Essential Skills Workshops.

Why do certain people at work bother me so much?

Because he or she is different than you. Embrace the differences – they complement one another. Relationships start with you. You hold the power to make your relationships what you want them to be.


Think about differences in people in two ways; pace and priority.


Pace makes up how people deliver. Some are very deliberate in how they deliver while others are quick and to the point. Some talk, think, walk, and complete projects slowly, while others operate at a faster pace. When dealing with someone with a different pace, it can be difficult, on both ends.


Priority makes up how people are motivated. Some are motivated by task oriented-projects and others by projects that allow them to be relationship-oriented. One wants to work together with a focus on details and perfection, the other wants to focus on the team and the relationships. Both focuses are valuable as well as opposing when working with others.


When Pace and Priority differences are combined, it creates the most challenging relationship of all. Imagine a thoughtful, detail-oriented person working with a quicker paced, big-picture type person who likes to make things happen, now! Or, consider a project lead wanting the task-oriented styles to see the big picture and they can’t, because their style requires the details to see it.


Embracing the differences may just give everyone what they want. If it’s perfection you want, imagine those people-oriented types will be more likely to deliver when the relationships are attended to. If it is a social environment you seek, allow the task-oriented people to present the details and they will be more likely to deliver what you want as well.


Emily Bass inspires great leadership using assessment-based strategies forExecutive Coaching ,Essential Skills Workshops and her one-of-a-kind Adventure Leadership Summit. Join Emily on Facebook, LinkedIn and stay connected by reading her Blog.


Are you aware of how others perceive you?

Many people think they know how they impact others but do they really?


See if you can identify the different behavioral styles in yourself and your coworkers simply by being observant of how each enters the office each morning…


  1. Style 1 slips in, goes right to their desk and gets to work.
  2. Style 2 greets every person at their desk and socializes with those willing.
  3. Style 3 jumps right into a work conversation without a greeting or acknowledgement if the other person is available.
  4. Style 4 passively checks to make sure everyone is ok and if he or she can do anything for anyone.


Are you able to recognize elements of yourself and others in these scenarios? Can you see how style 1, for example, might be impacted by styles 2, 3, and 4? For instance, if style 2 comes in and interrupts style 1, how do you think it will impact their work environment?


Let’s use the example of a meeting:


  1. Style 1 tends to be early or on time, has a notebook and quietly takes a seat. They do not say much unless asked and the response is factual and backed up by data and resources.
  2. Style 2 talks on the way into the meeting, through the meeting, and as they leave the meeting. They will hang around to socialize and will bring enthusiasm and fun to the meeting. They have big picture ideas and will leave the details to others.
  3. Style 3 gets right to the point, moves things quickly, interrupts those who speak slowly and concisely, and are not afraid to challenge ideas and think out of the box.
  4. Style 4 brings inclusion and steadiness to the meeting, making sure everyone is heard and often becomes a natural mediator. They will be sure to take notes and share.


Do you recognize elements of yourself and your coworkers in these examples?


We are all a blend of these styles and we all have a dominant style that is easily observable by others. Each style brings benefits and challenges to work relationships as well as brings value to the meeting and team. Each style impacts other styles in opportunistic ways.


In my coaching and my workshops, I see people and relationships transform when awareness and acceptance of different behavioral styles is present.


Action Step: Pay attention to how you are perceived by noticing how your behavioral style impacts others and how other’s styles impact you.


Emily Bass inspires great leadership using assessment-based strategies forExecutive Coaching ,Essential Skills Workshops and her one-of-a-kind Adventure Leadership Summit. Join Emily on Facebook, LinkedIn and stay connected by reading her Blog.

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