Language and Leadership: Are You “Minding” Your Words?

Susan S Freeman Blog

Language is a powerful vehicle for communication and self-expression.  For leaders, it’s an especially important part of influencing others.  Teams will rely on your communication, both implied and direct, in order to act.  They pay attention to your words, and the meaning behind the words.  Are you aware of all the messages your words convey?


Language is descriptive, yet it can also be generative. 

Language can create the future.  When we express ourselves, we give others a window into our true beliefs and mindsets.  They will then respond in accordance with how those words landed for them.

I had a client today express that one of the shifts she has made since our work began is that she is more mindful of her language.  She is paying attention to her choice of words, carefully weighing her intention prior to expressing her thoughts.  This is a powerful practice that happens when a leader becomes present and connected.    She said “I’ve been thinking about how words really do matter.  I’ve become more deliberate in my communication.”  This self-awareness has allowed her to become more effective in conversations with prospective customers; her connection is genuine and not “sales-y.

Our words have real power. 

We can label people with our words, and in so doing offer up judgement and restrict ourselves and them.    There is another way.   We can connect to our own desires by learning to become mindful.  As we become connected within ourselves, we can effortlessly use language to create what we desire.  We can then reach out to others with our words.  In so doing, we create the possibility for a relationship based on mutuality and respect.

languageHere are 3 tips for powerful language practices:

  1. Slow down before speaking. Create an intention in your own mind of what is important to you in this particular conversation.
  2. As you frame your words, check in for language that reflects labeling or judgment. Instead, focus on choosing words that reflect your genuine curiosity and interest in new possibilities.
  3. Check-in with your listener; reflect back what you have heard in their words. Empathize with what they have shared.  Look for common ground for partnering based on shared interest.

Learning to pay attention to language and how we use it is a leadership practice worth developing.  As you pay more and more attention to minding your words, watch your relationships flourish!

We invite your comments here.  For more tips, including Conversational Architecture, check out my book on Amazon, “Step Up Now:  21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others.”

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