By Jas Singh
As humans we have one major advantage of over every other creature that shares our planet.
Many other animals communicate with each other as we do. But we have a tool, a power that gives us a competitive edge. Something that allows us to communicate complex and important messages instantly. Something that allows us to pass information and knowledge from generation to generation – so that we can build on each other’s success. Something that has created all mighty nations, spread faith, and given leaders the ability to guide men and women.
What is this unique power?
In working with hundreds of leaders across all industries, I’ve noticed that great leaders understand the power of the spoken word. They choose their words carefully and realise the impact and importance of the way they speak.
Great speeches, leaders and stories are permanently ingrained in our minds, but we often forget the individual power that created them. The spoken word. The way we use our words shapes who we are, how we influence others and ultimately what we achieve in life.
Here are some things great leaders do to maximize the power of their spoken words.
1) Treat your words like royalty
Like anything important in life, change starts with awareness. Just like most important things we have been blessed with – our health, our planet, our relationships with each other – often we take things for granted. The same is very true of the spoken word – most of us use our words loosely, with little aforethought and little care of their consequences.
Yet every time we speak, we influence. Others around us, ourselves, even possibly entire companies and nations depending on our levels of responsibilities. With such far reaching consequences, the greatest leaders treat their words like royalty.
Although it’s been so difficult to prove due to cultural and personal variances, the average human has been shown to speak anything between 7,000 to 20,000 words a day. That’s a lot of communication. To select the right language, tone and vocabulary is essential.
2) Silence is golden
Realising the importance of the spoken word doesn’t mean trying to get in as many words as you can. In fact, usually the opposite is true – great leaders understand the importance of silence.
Ever met anyone who just went on and on? It’s likely you have. And it’s even more likely that you didn’t recall much of what they said. Our brains are designed to filter out information that is important – the essential stuff – and simply being bombarded with an endless terrain of information is unlikely to have much effect.
Just like high end luxury retailers display thousand dollar shoes on a pedestal with nothing else around them, the same is true of words. Carefully selected words that are used around silence stand out. They penetrate more. They make us think. They make us remember.
Great leaders only speak when they have something to say.
3) Practice, polish, improve
The famous American author and comedian Mark Twain once said “it usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”. And that’s the point exactly – usually we believe someone has a “way with words” – that it comes naturally, that it’s ingrained.
But none of us are born with speech. We all have to learn it. Which means we are all capable of improving at any time in our lives.
When I was a fresh graduate, the first job I ever had was in sales. Like any kid, I was nervous about cold calling. My manager at the time got me to cold call for 3 months straight – using the same template but allowing me to make adjustments according to what worked best for me. It became incredibly boring. But I now see why he did it – during that period, I practised. I made adjustments. I improved. Eventually I knew exactly what to say – but more importantly exactly how to say it. It’s something that is still useful to me this very day.
Great leaders always look to improve. They treat their words as critical and precious armoury in their ability to lead. They practice, polish and improve their words at all times to give maximum impact.
4) Inject emotion
Ever heard the saying “it’s not what you say but how you say it?”.
It’s so true.
One of the main goals of communication on all levels – from trying to get your kids to tidy their rooms to leading a billion dollar company – is to influence others. To get others to believe, act or change.
But plain words alone often have little effect. Spoken mundanely words can even be boring. We are social creatures, so the only way to influence others is by going deeper – connecting with others emotionally.
It’s why two sales executives can use exactly the same script and have totally different results. The one who injects emotion – through emphasizing words, carefully selecting the right tome of voice, and who genuinely believes in what they are selling – will always perform better.
Injecting emotion often requires energy. Which is why again great leaders speak up at the right time. When they believe they have something genuinely important to say. When they believe they can help others. Rather than ramble on for hours, often becoming tired and with little impact on others.
Great leaders use words filled with emotion.
Many faith’s have expressed the divine nature of spoken words.
Whether you believe in God or not, the truth is that no other creature on this planet has the ability to speak in a way that brings so much influence and opportunity.
Although not typically high on an assessment check-list, hiring managers can gain a great advantage by choosing those who use their words carefully – it’s implications might be much more than any degree or qualification.
Do you want treat your words more like royalty?
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