Words are everywhere. They connect us, they teach us, they hurt us. Our words have the power to change our environment, for better or worse. In a world that relies so heavily on communication, what we say directly impacts our relationships and achievements. There is a whole psychology behind what makes words so important in a professional environment, and how can we use this to change our own narrative.

Words at the Start of Everything

From a very young age, we are taught to communicate. We use this to learn and grow, and later to shape our beliefs, understand norms, and create our own story. Words open us up to new possibilities and opportunities.

Words aren’t simply a vessel of language; they have the power to create emotions and set the context. It’s not merely what you want to say, but what message underpins your words. Take sending an email. Every time you take this simple action, you are setting the tone for your relationship with the sender. You do this by choosing the degree of formality, determining what information to include, and by selecting the words which frame your message.

The Psychology of Words

Our words can’t change what’s going on around us, but they have the ability to change the way we perceive it. This means that we can control the narrative which we want our audience to receive. Words have the ability to bring people together. People turn to words for motivation and to instil hope. Often, we reflect on words spoken by influential figures.

“Success always demands a greater effort.” Winston Churchill, 1940

A quote like that can make us feel empowered. Similarly, the way we frame a question influences the way it is processed and acted upon. You can use language to tap into the desired emotion. For instance, the pain of losing is twice as emotional as the response to gaining. Let’s take this example.

You have £100, and you’re playing double or nothing. Heads or tails will either double the amount or lose everything. You are either told ‘you have 50% chance of winning £200’ or ‘you have 50% chance of losing £100.’ These two statements relay the exact same information; however, people are more likely to take the risk when the gain perspective is emphasised rather than the loss. The way the statement is framed affects the way we think about it, and therefore, how we act.

Words in the Workplace

The way someone speaks and the words they say impact the perception of the person. The way you speak to your clients, colleagues or management determines the way they perceive you, which plays an important role in your future success. Not only does it affect the present moment, but these moments are also used as points of reference when evaluating future scenarios.

  • Clients

Positive conversations with clients can lead to opportunities, such as the closing of deals, further work, and a good reputation. Not only does it impact our relationship with existing clients, but also potential future clients, through word of mouth. Word of mouth can affect sales figures up to 5 times more than traditional means of advertising. All the more reason to make sure clients have good things to say about their relationship with your company.

  • Colleagues

Each word you speak is important and has the potential to change the team dynamic. 75% of workers value teamwork, however, 34% of workers feel as though they need more social interaction with their colleagues. This chain of communication is fundamental in order to build relationships and increase productivity.

  • Leadership

The communication channels set up by those in roles of power will shape the overall running of your company. Employees who are regularly given feedback are 3 times more engaged in their work than those who do not receive feedback.

  • Yourself

The words you use determine the level of confidence projection you emit. The ability to not only be confident, but portray yourself as such, takes you far in the world of business and sets you apart from those around you. One of the most important characteristics of a leader is the ability to effectively communicate with their team.

Written Vs Verbal Communication

In a world so heavily dominated by new media, online communication has replaced most forms of verbal communication. Many employees would rather send an email or a message instead of meeting or calling their colleagues, bosses or clients. In fact, 91% of people who use a messaging platform say that they would rather message than call. The introduction of these messaging platforms has improved efficiency, as with a few clicks you can communicate with anyone at any time. It has also increased the number of tasks you can engage with, like communicating across multiple projects in a matter of minutes. Messaging could also be preferred when needed to discuss a topic that may prove to be awkward; people are more likely to feel comfortable addressing such issues from behind the screen. But there is a flipside.

Verbal communication has a vital advantage that is difficult to achieve with messaging: the ability to express emotion. In-person and video call communication allow us to pick up on the message behind the words in numerous ways, such as non-verbal communications, intonations, and silences. The chance of miscommunication is decreased, as issues can be cleared up in the moment, and there is a smaller chance of reading a message incorrectly. For these reasons, verbal communication is preferred when addressing a sensitive topic, where the recipient might benefit from in-person support. In some cases, when dealing with sensitive or privileged information, a written record could be an undesirable risk.

Words for Wellbeing

Just as words have the power to lift us up, they can just as easily tear us down. Negative words we inflict on ourselves will ultimately yield destructive effects on other areas of our lives. You might be telling yourself constantly that you’re not good enough. This then holds you back from applying for the new leadership role at your workplace.

So how can we rewrite this negative narrative?

  1. Be kind to yourself – offer the same empathy to yourself as you would offer others.
  2. Speak positively of others – the perceptions you create for others will ultimately determine the way you perceive yourself.
  3. Engage with motivational words – use words to your advantage by building yourself up.

Professional success isn’t solely based on resources and skills; it’s about the passion to learn and try new things. In order to create an environment where you are able to thrive and succeed, you must first believe that you are going to. Humans are social beings that rely heavily on communication with others to survive and grow; we cannot get far without the right amount of cooperation and teamwork. For this reason, we should always stop and reflect before we speak, as our words have the ability to change our whole life.