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What You Name That Thing Matters

August 13, 2013

Random Alphabet, with the word 'Reading'Do you know the work of Seth Godin?  Seth calls himself a writer, speaker and  change of agent.  Everyday, he produces and publishes thought-provoking idea at www.sethgodin.typepad.com.  It’s the kind of content that make the reader say, “Hmmm, interesting.”

Recently, he wrote a post about the impact of language called, “Words are hooks, words are levers.”  He says what we know.  The words we use matter.  They have meaning and evoke images and feelings.  Seth believes – and I agree –  that we and our ideas are judged based on the words we use to tell our story.

Words color the way we see a person, product or situation.  They influence the likeability and acceptability of people, ideas and processes.  Of course, that explains why companies invest so much in marketing.

We all spend a fair amount of time naming and labeling – naming our children, deciding what to call a new offering, or settling on which specific word to use in a presentation.  These are worthwhile deliberations because we know that the name we give a person, product or process makes a difference.  Labels evoke images, as well as, intellectual and emotional responses.

Here are two real-life workplace examples that illustrate this point beautifully.

A client of mine is making BIG changes to a function he leads, so much so that the current name doesn’t convey the new vision and strategy.  I suggested that he rename the function, giving it a name that tells the story of its new direction and identity.

During times of change – whether it’s a change in direction, leadership or your products and services – a window is opened, creating an opportunity to choose a name for your business, department or services that tells your new story.

Lorraine is senior executive who is thoughtful about the way she shows up.  She knows that her words, behavior and mood always have an impact.  She is a mindful, deliberate communicator.

For example, sustainability is a word that’s widely used in her company. At all levels, and across all functions, people talk about long-term sustainability.  It’s a concept that’s central to their business strategy.  But she says, “Sustainability is a suggestion to focus on survival, not flourishing and thriving.  We need to find a better way forward than sustainability prompts us to envision.”  Lorraine makes an important point.

The more important the message, the more mindful you need to be about your language.  Choose words that convey a clear and powerful message – words that inspire others to envision new possibilities.  Choose words that are constructive levers – words that elevate the content and quality of the conversations you participate in.

As you market your ideas and yourself, remember to invest the time it takes to choose your words wisely.

To learn more, read Godin’s blog, “Words are hooks, and words are levers.”

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