The power of language is all around us in the modern workplace. An effective manager knows that language is an extremely powerful communication tool, to be used on a daily basis. We call it ‘management speak’ when it tips over into bland generalizations about ‘circling back’ and ‘blue-sky thinking’, but however much we sneer at it the use of persuasive language is a great shortcut to making boring tasks sound exciting and keeping a team motivated, particularly when used alongside other forms of communication.
When writing an email, a proposal or any document, whether it’s for your biggest potential client or a colleague sitting across the office, using warm, open-ended phrases, short sentences and authoritative wording (‘So what do we hope to achieve here?’ or ‘How will this benefit you?’) will result in a document much more likely to persuade the reader, customer or otherwise, to engage with your message.
The overuse of management speak (i.e. ‘we need to synergize our core competencies’) can be a big turn-off to readers, showing them from a mile away that you don’t really have anything significant to say and are disguising that with layers of verbose terminology. However, just the right amount of wording – for example, saying ‘action’ instead of ‘do’ and ‘chat with’ instead of ‘talk to’ makes your text seem more enthusiastic and less demanding.
Likewise, using short, snappy sentences engages readers and makes your point clearer. Long sentences full of sub-clauses can be hard to follow, to the extent that the first tip on many journalism courses is to halve your commas and double your full stops.
When communicating verbally, the same rules still apply – short sentences, snappy wording. However, there are also a whole host of tricks using non-verbal communication (NVC) to enhance your message. Eye contact is an obvious starter, but if overused it can make you seem too intense, as can excessive hand gestures.
Effective use of NVC would need an entire series of articles to explain properly, so the most important lesson for anyone looking to implement it is that NVC is very hard to fake – it’s difficult to master your emotions to the extent that your body radiates calmness when you’re under a lot of pressure, for example. First, manage your stress – all our non-verbal tics are magnified when we’re tense, so if you can effectively keep this under control you will be much less in danger of contradicting your verbal message with non-verbal cues.
Ultimately the power of language applies in all situations and with all types of communication. By communicating effectively we ensure that our message is getting to the audience intact, whether that audience is your boss, your team or your clients.
Patrick Gardiner is an Account Manager for Capita Translation and Interpreting, a Language Services Provider based in the UK which lists the UK Government and a host of major global corporations as clients. Patrick has worked at Capita TI for nearly five years, prior to which he completed an MA in Translation and Interpreting.