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Don’t sweat the small stuff – what to listen for in communication

Don’t sweat the small stuff – what to listen for in communication Smaller FB

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff” is what an old adage says. What if the really small details that you would barely notice are hinting to really important stuff that you should take notice of and yet you should worry about?

In the communication of humans nothing is more important than listening to the nuances of our choice of words. They can tell you so much about the person you have in front of you and also provide you with a hint of if you are in trouble or not.

  • I versus we: If a sales person uses “I” a lot in a conversation or a job interview this may be good news as it can point towards an individual who takes ownership and pride the sales job. If you are looking for a team player this would rather hint toward a potential issue, right?
  • Me versus us: When someone uses “me” a lot over “us” that also points to potential issues if you are looking for a team player.
  • Mine versus ours: “Mine” is often used by folks who are more egocentric than others you prefer using the word “ours”. Again, if a lot of personal initiative and push towards progress is needed this may be the individual you want to look for your company. Does a manager use this terminology? Perhaps “mine” is not the right fit if you want to foster a collaborative environment.
  • For versus with: Would you want to have your managers mention that they work “for” or “with” their team members (employees)? The little difference can mean the world for the direct reports. “With” invites respect.
  • Will versus may: “Will” you do something or are you just considering it? The latter reeks of non-commitment. You need the former in order to have forward motion.
  • Must versus could: Don’t you just dislike folks right from the get go when they drop the “must” on you? Would it not be so much better if they used “could”?
  • Employee versus team member: A good leader-manager may use “employee”; a great one will use “team member”, because she can relate by ways of leading at eye-level with her direct reports.
  • Can’t versus will: This is a really bad catch when a team member only drops “can’t” in conversations. Is it not more important what “will” be done?

Sure, sometimes you cannot and must not worry about the minutia of the day-to-day stuff. Then again, it just may be important paying attention what kinds of words are chosen in discussions with and around you. That is something you really should be regarding as important clues to what is going on around you.


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