Why Words Matter?

I’ve always known that words matter, but it wasn’t until last year when I completed Judith E. Glaser’s Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) coach training that I truly recognized the impact of every word that we use. And the impact on our neurochemistry (and that of others) of every word that we think before we speak.

Words that feel safe release a cascade of Oxytocin in our blood, and threatening words have the opposite effect – yes the culprit is Cortisol! A powerful question to ask ourselves is this: ‘On a daily basis, am I serving up more Oxytocin or more Cortisol?’

If the answer is Cortisol, then we have more work to do.

When people feel heard, their brain dishes out Oxytocin, the neurochemical that builds connection, trust and bonding.  So how are you listening? And are the words you’re using inspiring Oxytocin release?

Imagine that it takes 0.07 seconds for our brain to decide whether we are ‘with’ someone or ‘against’ them. Friend or foe! I always knew that first impressions counted, but thought we had more time up our sleeve!

What a revelation to realise that from that very first second, the thoughts we are having change our neurochemistry, our body language and the extraordinarily subtle signals we give off without conscious awareness. Even before we speak!

There is much literature about how important our Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) are in life, and now through the extraordinary research by Judith E. Glaser, a heightened awareness that our Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) plays a critical role in shaping our ability to form healthy, thriving relationships and build trust in a world rapidly sinking into distrust.

This is not the platform to delve into politics, yet the question begs: How carefully are our politicians globally using words?

And how intelligently are we all using words? Not very well – according to Judith E. Glaser, as 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark entirely and leave people feeling unheard and frustrated.

With frustration the number one ‘emotion’ being experienced in the Corporate world at the moment (http://www.6seconds.org/2017/07/23/vital-organization-key-findings/), there is much to be learned when it comes to C-IQ.

C-IQ is about connecting with others in a way that builds trust, the invisible thread that makes the world feel a little less threatening and opens us up to taking a few risks. Mistakes feel OK – a chance to learn something about ourselves, whereas distrust plummets us into a threatened state of retreat, and the need to fight back or just withdraw.

I’d like you to think about how many conversations you have each day that leave you feeling really good! And how many leave you feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, angry and even furious!

I hope the letters in WORDS hold surprises and clues as to how you can do better in your conversations:

W: WEAVE A THREAD OF TRUST

Choose your words carefully. Our brains are wired for threat and scan our environments constantly looking for those threats! We don’t remember the many positive things said to us in performance feedback sessions – our brain is too focused on that one word suggesting we could do better! It’s extraordinary to realize that employee performance improves when we give only strengths- based feedback, so why do we focus so much on what’s not working!

Tip: Speak truthfully and authentically. Show your care and concern, and always position your sentence with something strengths- based and positive. Ask for permission before stating a fact.

O: OPEN UP POSSIBILITY

Things can be pretty dire – yet focusing optimistically on the solution is likely to have a better outcome than diving headfirst into the detail and drama of the situation. Ask more questions and be careful not to jump to conclusions. Any solution of yours is unlikely to connect with the thinking of someone else’s brain!

Tip:  Ask questions for which you have no answers. Listen curiously, then ask more questions. It may take 5 – 8 questions to really get somewhere new and exciting. Stay with it, as weird as it feels. This is where the magic ‘aha’ moments happen and relationship breakthroughs occur!

R:  RESPECT OTHERS’ OPINIONS

How hard is this when we’re all so addicted to being right! Empathy is the emotional intelligence competency at play here – that unique and very special personal leadership quality that enables us to ditch judgement and look at situations from every perspective. To get into someone else’s shoes…and see the things we’ve never seen before, asking questions we’ve never asked before. Human to human, every idea and opinion matters. We’ll be the richer for listening!

Tip: Tune in to your judgement gene! Challenge your pattern around judgement. Start considering multiple perspectives and open your mind and heart to new ways. Our brains are neuroplastic – with effort, we can change anything!

D: DIVE DEEPER

We think we’ve understood what the other person is trying to say – but really, have we? There are billions of brains on the planet, and every one of them is different. We look at the same picture, and see different things. Judith E. Glaser calls the C-IQ skill here ‘Double Clicking’, staying more curious for longer and asking even more questions.

Tip: People who ‘know it all’ send others into a threat state. Talking to people who superficially ask questions and then move on without genuinely paying attention to the answer feels awful. The trick here is to be fully present to every conversation. Stop multi-tasking and make every person you speak to feel that they are the only person in your universe at that moment in time.

S: SEE CONVERSATIONS AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ‘SHARED SUCCESS’

This paints a picture of a ‘win – win’ experience where (no matter how difficult the situation), both parties leave the conversation feeling heard and validated. This comes down to the quality of the listening. Are we listening to confirm what we think we already know, or are we listening to connect with another point of view?

Listening is a lifelong skill that we strive to develop, and truly, not many of us become amazing at it! It takes practice and humility, perseverance and presence. We may not agree and the outcome we reach may not be to the other person’s liking, but if we listened and they feel heard… they’re more likely to accept the outcome.

Tip: Start watching how many times you interrupt a conversation? How many times you butt in with your thoughts and opinions? Practice being quiet until the end – reflecting more on the words being used, and the message behind the words.  

The magic in conversation happens when we listen more than we talk!

It always amazes me that L.I.S.T.E.N and S.I.L.E.N.T share the same letters. We all know those people who master the art of conversation. Their presence and quality of listening makes us take notice when they choose to use words.

Cheers and my wholehearted thanks

Alison