I have been intrigued for a while now with the power of words. With the concept that words, the choice of words we use, may be more important than we realize. And I’m not just talking about oration here. Sure, being able to weave together a string of lovely words to make a point is a wonderful skill. My question is more simple that that. Does behavior shape the words we use or do the words we use shape our behavior? What’s easier, to start changing how you talk about something, or start changing how you do something? And if you change the words you use, could it actually help you or your organization change?
I came across this concept first when working with a fellow executive coach (Hi Gene Gallivan!). We were working on a project together and got to talking. I shared that personally, like many of the business leaders I coached, I was generally driven more by my head, my thoughts, and by my logic. I’m more T than F on Myers Briggs, and darn it, that bugged me. It sounded cold, it sounded harsh. Gene suggested that if I wanted to be even a bit more in touch with my feeling side that I should start by talking differently. He noticed that I often started a sentence with “I think…” and suggested that I stop myself and begin comments with “I feel…” instead. That the simple act of doing that would cause me to connect with what I feel and balance that better in my own style at home and at work. Guess what? It worked. I’m still a pretty logical and thought-driven person, but have a much more integrated approach to my own leadership and personal interactions.
This experience has led me to also consider the importance words have in business. How we talk about our business processes does matter. Whether the words naturally make us think about our clients’ needs or our needs can drive behavior that aligns with the one we are striving for. So, it makes me think about the words we use in recruiting. Recruiting is a verb, it is something we do, but recruitment is a noun. Talent acquisition is a noun or a function. Time to fill, intake calls, requisitions, offer accepts, fills, hires, interview to offer ratios, candidates, applicants, employment. These are the words we use in recruiting. What behaviors do they subtly reinforce? What should the new words for recruiting be?