What’s in a Word?

Humans are meaning-making machines – we will apply meaning to anything.  Meaning of a situation, a result, a look or comment from somebody……even a word.  And we all add our own unique perspective to the meaning.

Where one person might interpret a result as a failure, another might take hope from it, or a new lesson.communication

Even though words have their definitions in a dictionary, we have tendency to using certain words over others, and have our own way of using the same word.

Think about what the following words mean to you: love; respect; integrity; family; accountability.

I bet if you compared your meaning with others that you would see differences.  That’s because these words are actually quite abstract and can be broken down in different ways.

This came to the forefront of my mind yesterday, because of the word “accountability’.  I was asked to speak about it briefly to my networking group this week, and so I thought I’d do a little research.

Accountability:  the quality or state of being accountable; especially :  an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.  (Merriam-Webster)

Until I did my search, I mainly used the word in reference to others – being accountable to someone else or a group.  One of the benefits of having a coach, is that you are accountable to someone.

Surprise to me, in my search for books on accountability, that they referred more to self-accountability and how important this is to success.  When people are accountable to themselves, there is no blaming and no excuses.

Mmmmm, exactly what I talk about with a winner’s mindset and in my coaching – only I talk about responsibility and personal leadership.

I realized, that by shifting my communication to use the word, accountability, I could open myself up to a new market – the individuals and companies that need greater self-accountability.

Now this is not about me, or about accountability.  This is about YOU and the words you are using to communicate to your tribe, your community, your peeps.

This ties in beautifully to the branding process I am in the midst of currently – finding out the words that best describe you and would be the best attractors for your ideal clients.

Two things to consider here:

1. Be careful how you use your words , especially abstract value-type words.  If you assume everyone thinks the same way as you about that word, you could be giving mixed messages.  For example, family might mean spouse and children to one person; and extended family to another.  Respect might mean ‘obey me’ to one person, and ‘mutual co-operation’ to another.

2.  Think about what words best describe your work.  Can you describe your program or steps in other ways to better communicate within a certain community?

What is in the words you use, as a speaker, as a communicator and as a leader. If you are struggling to get your message across, then maybe it’s time to use different words, or go into the details, so that everyone is on the same page.

Please share your experiences here about words that work and that don’t work for you.