Soft Power in Everyday Life – Dealing with the Language in the Company Correctly
5 tips for using the right language for cost-effective people management
Companies today face the problem of recruiting and retaining staff. At least for as long as newly recruited employees stay at all. Long-term career opportunities and training programs are only one means of persuading employees to stay. But they lose their binding power. Mindful language in the company costs little and ensures a motivated daily routine.
Which company do you like more: the one that writes about itself: “relaxed company culture” or the one that writes “we are a team – across 10 locations”? The former is inviting and arouses curiosity. The second gives pause: a team across 10 locations? That is probably more wishful thinking than reality.
The example shows: the way something is talked about determines how the listener or reader reacts. Most employees leave when the culture is not right and the boss is speaking: top management not only has the insight, but has a duty to ensure a welcoming and inclusive culture. If chosen words are appreciation killers.
In addition to living with staff shortages, time pressure is also a daily challenge. Areas of action are therefore the successful recruitment and – retention of employees once they have been recruited. Retaining employees in the long term is like betting on a weak horse. The probability that it will win races is low – despite all the efforts of love.
Concepts like logosynthesis and neurolinguistics show the importance of language: language makes power and creates. How you name something determines its reality. Conversely: to relax, it’s not the “bucket” or the “to-do” list, but “islands of relaxation” that make the difference.
In other words: language competence is also important in the digital age! Not only when prompting commands to bots. Language has a disastrous effect when it comes across as destructive. In education it was not called “black pedagogy” for nothing – because humiliation should lead to learning success.
Targeted language training for employees and the management helps to communicate more effectively because it is appreciative. Especially from customer contacts, we know what goes down well. Responding with understanding is important. It is just as important to choose words without barbs and to ask questions.
5 correct ways of speaking for everyday life in the company
1. Avoid unnecessary filler words
Who doesn’t dislike hearing such reproaches: “This isn’t the first time you’ve done this”. The “yes” is an underlining of an accusation and a commitment to insist on being right. The rightness of the speaker. That’s exactly what employees don’t need, otherwise they’ll secretly clench their fists, appear toxic instead of productive, and leave. Such filler words have a deeply subliminal and disastrous effect.
“Always” never works: The filler word “always” slips out easily and has a totalitarian claim: it is enough to level the self-esteem of the counterpart, because he simply does everything wrong. Just “always”. Chance for improvement: in vain.
Similar filler words as are “yet”. In the context of direct address or defense, “yet” is not only superfluous, but it reinforces an attitude of reproach. It virtually insists on the reproach. Countering, in turn, intensifies the pressure.
A nonword is “actually”: because – actually – it means something else, so what exactly? A sentence with “actually” remains in the imprecise, dubious and helps no one.
2. Use the magic of language
Listen carefully; even supposedly trivial things make sense. Does someone wish you a nice day? Yes, take that with you. You will have a good day if you remember that it was wished for you. Often, anyway. They use the positive energy of such wishes when they say thank you and smile. Actively expressing such wishes, but also consciously accepting them, represent a small part of magic in everyday life.
3. Discipline is everything
Discipline in speech and avoidance of such light-footed reproachful filler words always add value. They help to protect the world from condemnation and disrespect. Especially in moderation situations, the spoken word counts. And mindfulness for the group and communicating precisely “to the point.” That’s inaccurate: take the trouble to be precise beforehand in important conversations.
4. Active listening
Talking to someone means entering into a dialogue and being ready to take in what comes from the other person. This is often forgotten. It requires pausing, holding back what is on the tip of one’s tongue. And: actually forgetting completely: Listening comes before interrupting, brilliance comes from listening, not from rioting in conversational situations.
Slowness and pauses are underappreciated forces that help you steer conversations and make what is said work. Skillful use of language helps with the indispensable future skill of forming collaborations (LINK).
5. No “would have, would have”
Dialogic knows no defense. Phrasing with the subjunctive “would have” comes across as reproachful. Even the “could you” as a clause can come across as aggressive rather than as a question. If something comes across as a correction and an accusation of error (“if you had done that earlier”), it is advisable to accept it, not to defend it. As in Asian sports, it is important to direct energies, not to confront them. It is sovereign to say: yes, I heard you. Pause. That disarms enormously for the time being.
The magic “How” or “What”-Question
Do you not understand something someone is doing and are you annoyed with employees or colleagues? Don’t say right away how you would do it, ask “Why do you do it this way?” or better: “What is the reasoning behind doing something this way or that way”. This way, they leverage long-winded defenses and, moreover, get valuable content about things you may have had no idea about.
Pitfalls in branding programs
Also, don’t name projects something, System X for example, but look for poignant word formations like “Fit 4 all” for an HR health management project. This is better received than “Adios Adipositas”, which distributes blame one-sidedly and pre-produces program refusers. Similarly, Age Positive (Unilever) at least sends out energy as opposed to an interchangeable senior program.
In one Asian country, a global concert failed to inquire about cultural barriers to images in language. So it happened that projects, meetings and sessions in a conference room with its own “imaginatively” chosen name flopped with the staff there. What was the reason? It turned out that such a name is not acceptable in the local culture. It offended religious feelings and simply went against common decency. Just as we in Europe would hardly want to call a seminar raucus “Lucifer” and the number four in Chinese means “to die”.
Attentiveness in speaking and discipline in the choice of words are lost rhetorical skills. Don’t be tempted by the quickening language in social media to rant carelessly instead of proceeding thoughtfully. So a piece of effective people management is easy to have and even more cost-effective than large training programs. They work by example and occasional accents as an emphasis on a culture of cultivated conversation.