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Start with the end in mind

I tend to use this phrase a lot with clients. It’s the second principle of Stephen Covey’s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, so I feel I’m in good company with this one.

When I share this piece of advice, I’m asking the client to consider the impact they have on others. Whether it’s a simple e-mail to a team member, a speech they are writing, or a proposal they are submitting, the words they use will provoke a response in the recipient. But unless we are wise about the words we use, we are leaving to chance that the response will work in our favour – or not.

What is it that we want the reader – or listener – to think, feel or do as a result of what they receive from us? Are we delivering a call to action, that spurs them to respond, to approve our proposal? Do we want to evoke positive emotions around change, that spills into their conversations with colleagues? All these things – and more – are possible, if only we take the time to choose our words well.

The flip side is that we can also empower people to feel anger, distance, disinterest confusion, and other negative emotions. Emotions that, at best, leave the recipient forgetting your work in an instance and, at worst, provoke outrage and defensive reactions – the results of which are never pretty.

Proverbs 18v21 contains some of the best advice for those who want to communicate wisely:

‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’.

Our capacity to influence our world through our words is immense; thoughtful application of this amazing tool really can work wonders for good!