"Pay with compliments and you will always be wealthy"
-- Mike Dolan
I'm amazed at the huge role language can play in professional success. Words can be the determining factor in whether someone feels encouraged or discouraged, motivated or dejected. Words speak volumes about us, as well.
Whether it is positive or negative, our language is our personal advertisement. Every time we open our mouth, we let people into our minds. What do they see?
As a child, I often heard the statement, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Wrong. A thoughtless, cruel, demeaning word can have a devastating, long-lasting effect.
Our words can powerfully influence attitudes, and attitudes are contagious. Negative feelings can spread like a virus through an organization.
On the other hand, the right words can inspire people and organizations. When people are encouraged, they work harder and feel like they can achieve anything.
Mother Teresa put it this way: "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
In a recent study, 58 percent of employees reported that they seldom received compliments for doing a good job, even though they ranked such recognition as their most motivating incentive.
To have winning businesses and working relationships, we have to be inspiring communicators. A compliment costs us nothing and can be the most rewarding gift for both the giver and receiver.
Here are some ways to become a more positive communicator:
* Conduct a language audit. Indicators of a poor communication climate are the quality and direction of the language spoken throughout the organization. Listen attentively to what people are saying. Notice the patterns and trends that emerge. Record your thoughts without making judgments. Try to determine a baseline from which to begin your transforming efforts.
* Add a penny for your positive thoughts. Each morning, put a handful of pennies in your pocket. Every time you provide positive, specific feedback, transfer a penny to another pocket. The goal is to transfer all the pennies to the other pocket.
Focus on catching people doing things right. You will become more aware of how generous or meager you are with compliments. You will also notice an increase in morale and productivity within your organization.
* Reinforce behavior you want to see repeated. Research has shown that people will repeat behavior they are appreciated for and rewarded for. Read that last sentence one more time -- it's true. I promise! Change their hearts, and you will change their language and behavior.
There are two parts to making your compliments reach hearts, not just minds:
* The Reason: Identify specifically what the other person did that warrants a genuine compliment. Share as much detail as possible so they completely understand why they are being complimented and how their actions made a difference. This supplies a sincere and meaningful basis for the compliment.
* The Feeling: Put your emotions into your words. How did their actions really make you feel? This produces communication at an emotional level. This may seem difficult but will produce the greatest gains in changing people's hearts.
Putting these parts together will send a message that will motivate and lift spirits.
As Mark Twain wrote, "I can live for two months on a good compliment."
Words can and do make a difference. Use kind, inspiring words with a helpful intent and a gentle tone of voice and you will build better relationships and businesses and move up the success ladder more quickly and surely.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.