Words have power. As a trainer and a leader you need to pay attention to the words you use.
‘Don’t’ is a word you should strive to eliminate from your vocabulary. Instead of telling people what not to do, communicate in positive terms what you want them to do. When you use the word don’t at the start of a sentence the other person’s mind has to determine what not to do so it actually imagines doing the less desirable thing. The mind can only hold one image at a time so it holds on to the image of the less desirable action. Every time you repeat the “don’t do X” instruction, they imagine doing X. I recently watched an online training session with a very experienced instructor who was actually talking about elements of the mind. I was frustrated by his continual use of the word ‘don’t’ and lost count of the number of times he said “don’t do that” during the 60 minute training session. Strive to eliminate the word “don’t” from your vocabulary and to learn to communicate in positive terms.
One letter can make a big difference. Read the two questions below and notice the difference in the inference when only one letter is changed.
- What would you do when you find yourself in a similar situation?
- What could you do when you find yourself in a similar situation?
The use of the word ‘would’ in the first question implies there is one right answer; one way to solve the problem. The use of the word ‘could’ in the second question implies there are multiple ways to solve the problem. The value of using the word ‘could’ at the start of a discussion is that it opens up the conversation and the flow of ideas. It allows for the suggestion, discussion and evaluation of multiple options in order to weigh the more desirable and less desirable elements of each. After that discussion you could certainly narrow it down and use the word ‘would’ to focus on a specific action.
I continue to hear trainers and leaders refer to recruits in an Academy, and officers new to the profession as “kids”. They are not kids. They are men and women in an Academy who will very soon become law enforcement professions, or men and women who have graduated from the Academy and are now in the field serving as law enforcement professionals. Yes, they may be considerably younger that you, but they are not kids. If however, you think of them as kids and refer to them as kids you will be prone to treat them like kids. Think of them, refer to them and treat them as the adults they are.
Words have power. Pay attention to the words you use.
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