Have you ever noticed how a perfectly harmless conversation can turn negative at the flick of a switch? All it takes is for someone to start being judgemental of something or someone else.
“John didn’t show up to the meeting – he’s such a slacker…”; “Jane’s being useless on the project and must be focusing on her kids again instead of work...”
Suddenly, you feel you have to watch yourself and become more aware of your position in the organisational hierarchy. Are you being watched too?...
[Read on or watch the video]
Language as a means of power
It’s not that assigning responsibility or evaluating performance aren’t necessary but there’s a special ingredient that turns the judgement into something toxic: power.
Using judgement (or language) as a power play, e.g. by diminishing another person creates a sense of unease and divisiveness in the group that can be toxic (i.e. it triggers survival instincts).
Yet language can also be generative, liberating and create deep connection.
Here are 4 principles that can help you use words to create a better future for yourself and a better environment for those around you:
1) Speech is an act
Most people don’t realise the power of their words. As soon as they’ve left your lips, they have the power to change the mood, thoughts and actions around you. And that’s not just if you’re the boss. Everyone has this power. Use it wisely. Use it consciously rather than reactively.
2) Your speech creates your future
Have you heard the expression: the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour? That’s true under fixed conditions. However, if you focus on the possibilities of the future and how to make them happen rather than dwelling on the past which most people do, you’re creating a new trajectory for yourself and those around you. Of course, the past can teach you what needs to change but it can’t create the future. Only you can.
3) Judgment fuels toxicity; discernment grows wisdom
Judgement is always harmful to trust. On the other hand, discernment distinguishes the finer elements of a situation and identifies the true levers for change. A little curiosity is a much better starting point than a judgement. In fact, I’d say that curiosity is the opposite of judgement and a cure for hatred.
4) Honouring your word builds trust and psychological safety
Peaceful societies are built on trust. If you break that trust you’re contributing to the erosion of the social fabric that enables us to live together. What’s more, you’ll start to doubt yourself and whether you can achieve what you set out to do. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Let go of sentences like “I should” and “I need to” and focus on “I want” and “I commit to”. And if you mess up, that’s OK. Just own up and clean up.
Leadership training will encourage you to slow down and use silence effectively with people. I’d say the most important person to lead first is yourself: can you slow down and use silence to see more clearly?
From there, you’ll become an island of sanity, innovative thinking and positive influence in any culture. And if it’s time to leave, it won’t be because you didn’t live into your highest potential.
Abracadabra means: “I will create as I speak”.
What will you create today?
Have a great week,
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Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi is an international Executive Coach. If you're a deep thinking professional or leader and would like help growing your influence, affluence and leadership impact on your own terms and in your own time, let's have a conversation. I offer one-to-one coaching, group coaching and transformational workshops in person and online. To discuss your unique situation and vision email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an assessment questionnaire and book a time to speak. For more information visit www.doctoramina.com. We look forward to hearing from you.