When my husband and I were first married we moved three states away from where we had grown up.
And quickly learned that the carbonated beverages we had been consuming for our entire lives were not called POP.
- In this place they were called SODA!
- A few years later we moved south and learned that no matter what flavor of carbonated beverage we wanted to consume we needed to order a COKE – and then name our flavor of choice.
As we’ve continued to move I’ve kept a mental list of others…
- When you throw something away do you CHUCK it or CHUNK it?
- When you hold onto something have you KEPT it or KEP it?
- Do you have a kitchen COUNTER or a kitchen BENCH?
- Does your car have a HOOD or a BONNET? A TRUNK or a BOOT?
- Do you cook with CORIANDER or with CILANTRO?
- When you are talking about a friend that is not your spouse… Are they your FRIEND or your MATE?
- When you go to the store… Do you use a shopping CART or a shopping BUGGY or a TROLLEY?
As fun as the game is – does it really matter what you call it?
A new neighbor was recently in a public setting and shared what she was going to cook for dinner that night. She was quickly advised not to use that term in public places as it describes a woman’s private parts in the local language. (A new learning for many of us.)
A few days later I was visiting with another friend about how terms have changed over the years.
- In her day a THONG was a FLIP FLOP.
- And a term that was once used to describe a race of people is now as much of a trigger as a term that is spoken with prejudice and hate.
Both ladies caused me to remember a time I was trying to lead a change from the middle of an organization.
I was about to meet with an operations executive to recommend a change that our team had been piloting for over a year.
- We’d adopted a process that was costing the company more than $500,000 annually.
- Transformed it into a process that was generating more than 1 Million in annual revenue.
- And believed that if this process was successfully implemented at all of the locations in the company it had the potential to bring in nine to ten times that amount.
When I met with the executive, I used a word to describe the process that he could not relate to. (In his mind I’d just called a Coke a Soda.) His brain locked up and no matter what I said after that – he absolutely could not hear the how this process change could add value to the organization.
(…Yes I eventually found a term he related to, but change did not happen until I did!)
At another point in my career, I listened to people that had been sharing their needs for years and were beyond frustrated that they were not being heard.
- When I investigated their concerns I realized that they were speaking the language of their business,
- And they were trying to communicate to another business that had their own language.
So I created a short document that translated what they were trying to communicate into the language of the business they were trying to influence.
And then change happened.
In today’s world I hear people expressing how frustrating it is to have to be politically correct about everything.
I agree that it a lot of work to learn the way a part of the world uses a term, or how the meaning of a word has changed over-time.
But here’s the thing – If you want to communicate effectively with others… Ignoring or fussing against their norms won’t increase your ability to be heard or understood. And it definitely won’t help you create changes that support the greater good.
Choosing the right word means you’ve taken the first step to getting heard.
Change never begins out there – It always begins with the person you control – YOU!
- Your willingness to learn their terms.
- Your willingness to change how you communicate.
- Your willingness to persist.
What more on this topic?