Straight to YOUR Bottom Line

By: Kraig Peel, Ph.D

Words We Choose

The New Year has brought a lot of political hype and grandstanding. I wantto address the power that individual words have for all of us. This can be in personalrelationships or in the media that we are inundated with every day. The wordchoice we make will make a difference in the perception that people generate intheir mind regarding that particular topic or idea.

The recent events in Washington where some government employees did notget paid is a great example. We were overwhelmed with “Government shutdown” atevery turn. Social media, print, television and satellite radio all echoed those words.Was the government actually shut down? Absolutely not, 86% of the governmentcontinues to operate regardless of whether there is a budget in place. Thegovernment is not actually shut down. The question is how many Americans justtake the narrative and believe the word picture that the words imply? When I thinkof a business closing even for a short time, I create the picture in my mind of abuilding that is locked and maybe even chains on the door. The windows may beboarded up and the parking lot is empty. The government shutdown was far fromthis scenario. There were some federal agencies that were affected and people didnot get paid which is wrong. The bottom line here is that the words that werechosen did not reflect reality but were effective in creating an emotional response inpeople. This term is not new and has been used many times in the past for the samepurpose. There are better words that would more accurately describe the realitybut would not create the desired emotional response. What if the words chosenwere: Some agencies have suspended funding? Does that generate the same picturein your mind as “government shutdown?” Likely not, which is why those words arenot used even though they are accurate. Words have power to drive perception.

The other word that is being bounced around in Washington that is tied tothe previous situation is the “wall.” I have heard several politicians in the last fewweeks state that they could support a barrier but not a wall. The most notable wallwas in Germany and there were a lot of negatives associated with that structure.There are those in Washington that seek to drive public opinion and have used thatword to develop a picture of something that is bad and immoral. I personally do notunderstand how enforcing our laws and protecting Americans is immoral? I spent 7years living and ranching in South Texas and I fully understand the crisis ofprotecting our borders. It was 25 years ago when I lived there and it was bad thenand has only gotten worse. I am saddened to listen to those who have lost lovedones to violence from people who are in our country illegally. Where is theimmorality in their loss? Why was that person allowed to remain in our countrywhen they were breaking the law? It is irrelevant what a person believes aboutimmigration when someone’s life is taken. Does the word chosen really have animpact on whether someone will accept the general idea? Obviously it does basedon the current public perception. This particular word does provide an adequateexcuse to drag their feet. Words have power to impede progress or derailopportunities.

What words do you choose when you relate to your employees and are theycommunicating the message that you want to convey? I was recently discussingheifer condition with one of my colleagues. My word choice was that the heiferswere fat while he chose to describe them as well developed. My choice broughtnegative while his brought a positive response. The heifers still have the same BCSbut his words did not create a negative picture with our client. I am fortunate that Iwork with someone that holds me accountable to make good word choices. Thinkabout the words you use and the word you hear. They have power.