Home > Business & Finance > Watch Your Language, Please!

Watch Your Language, Please!

By: Vinay Kumar.
An old saying goes: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  From my experience, nothing is farther from the truth.  While physical wounds heal and are long forgotten, ill chosen words cut deep, with some such inflicted wounds never to heal.

I have found over the years that using positive words doesn’t cost any more.  And using negative words doesn’t cost any less.  Yet the impact each has, positive or negative, is huge.  Let’s look at a business example.

In working with an organization some years back, a team spent some time reviewing various templates used in customer communications.  The wording in one of them really jumped out, worded roughly as follows (and the other templates weren’t much different in tone):

ABC Manufacturing has reviewed your request and has determined that it does not meet our strategy.  Therefore we will not consider this request now, nor in the future.  We are closing out the request.  (Name of the client and wording have been changed/modified while preserving the essence.)

I don’t know what your reaction was reading this but for me it felt like a door being slammed in my face.  It pained me just reading it – and it was not even a response to my request.  I can only imagine what the clients must have felt, when receiving such a response, and the (adverse) impact that must have had on the customer relationships and the business.

I am wondering if there would be another way to word this. For example, something like this:  “Hello , thank you for your request.  I have reviewed your request and unfortunately at this point in time, it does not fit the product strategy and therefore I am unable to address it through our regular support mechanism.  Having said that, I like to suggest our having a conversation so we can better understand what it is you’re trying to achieve and then perhaps there may be another way we can help you achieve your desired outcomes.  If you agree, I’ll ask your account manager to follow-up with you to discuss this further.  In the meantime, I will mark this ticket as resolved and then depending on the conversation that takes place between you and the account manager, another ticket can be opened up accordingly at that time.  Will this be agreeable to you?  If so, please advise and then I’ll ask your account manager to follow-up with you.  I’ll wait to hear from you then.  Thank you kindly.”

While this suggested reply is wordier and takes few more moments to write, don’t you think it’s much warmer, invites dialogue and leaves room for exploration and future opportunities as well as contributes to stronger relationship formation?

If you agree with the message of this post, perhaps it may be worthwhile for you and your team to review your own communications that take place with your customers, internal and external, and identifying ways they can be made more customer friendly, so they lead to more positive outcomes, for you and your clients?  In my experience, this is one of the ways to have a huge positive impact on your relationships and your bottom line, without spending a single additional penny.

What are your thoughts and experiences in this regards?  I would love to hear from you.  Won’t you please take a few moments to respond?   I thought to create one extra category of Business & Finance, to help those who needs some improvement and  some very basic skills to keep the business alive. I will keep posting more business advises at least once a week, stay with the blog and happy learning.

Categories: Business & Finance
  1. rajeev
    February 14, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Physical wounds will heal and leave a scar, but worded wounds never heal and always remain as sour wounds. One must always be careful with one’s spoken words.

  2. February 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

    @ Rajeev – Yes, very true, this advise is for all relations, including business and personal life, very apt, thank you 🙂

  3. Sheila
    February 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Many thanks for your reminder that positive communication is an art we should all practise. However, I feel I need to point out the original meaning of “Sticks and Stones”. We were taught that it means “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me (because I won’t let them)”, meaning “say what you like about me, see if I care” (which is pretty much how you should deal with a bully).

  4. February 14, 2011 at 11:45 am

    @ Sheila – Hi and thank you for commenting, even though you don’t do much, its always pleasure to receive a comment from you, I wish you could do always. Re: your comment, I fully agree with you, it depends a lot on us, when we deal with a bully, but for that we should be highly focused and with great self-control in order not to get hurt. But if you notice this article is to improve our own communication skills and try not to hurt someone, and most important to avoid fully to be considered bully by somebody 🙂

  5. Shammi
    February 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Harsh words always leave a mark which is very difficult to obliterate. While it is not possible to be nice always, we can make an attempt to be decent and avoid using harsh words as far as possible

  6. Amisha
    February 19, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Good advice thanks.

  7. February 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    @ Shammi – Yes very true, where are you nowadays? Thanks for all the emails you have sent, but few comments coming from your side, so its good to see you back again as well 🙂

    @ Amisha – Thank you for dropping by 🙂

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