The Importance of Words

I love Schiphol airport. When you arrive on BA you’re at the farthest point from the baggage reclaim and the passport control. The step meter on my phone recorded it as 1700 steps and I was carrying my computer, which with all the other stuff in the bag, weighed in at about 7kg’s. So all in all a good workout session without having to go to the gym.

The other thing is the entrepreneurial spirit of the pirate taxi drivers. When you leave the safety of the terminal to go the taxi rank you are literally bombarded by people wearing yellow bibs emblazoned with the words “Official Taxi Driver” and a whole bunch more with other yellow bibs, there to warn you that they are not “official” at all and to follow them because they’ll take you to the “real” official taxi’s.

So having navigated the throng official pirate taxi drivers I finally arrived at the hotel about 20 minutes later.

As I’ve said before I love these training weeks. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do and yesterday was no different.

The attendees this week are all senior managers but with varying responsibilities. One of whom is a lady who is the finance manager with special responsibility for the companies tax affairs. I’ll call her Sue.

Now this week’s subject is marketing, so one of the things I have been at pains to point out and make sure that they all understand is that marketing is a complete mindset not just a functional activity of a few specialists within the business.

One of the exercises I had set for them was to identify a project that they could each apply the principles of marketing to, even if their role didn’t not involve any relationship with the company’s customers.

I asked everyone to share the project they had chosen and when it came to Sue’s turn she said, in a very apologetic voice, “I’m just looking at the compliance issues for each business in the countries they’re based”.

I stopped her in her tracks. “Why did you use the word ‘Just’?” She looked at me blankly not knowing what to say; as if that was her usual way of responding to the question –What do you do?

I explained to her that what she was doing was an amazingly important part of the company’s overall image in the countries they operate in and therefore a vital part of their marketing story.

You could see that she didn’t quite believe it until one of her colleagues pointed out the mess that Starbucks and other large corporations had got themselves into by seemingly trying to avoid paying taxes in their host countries.

At this she visibly rose in her chair.

Over dinner I discussed with her the importance of the words we use to ourselves and to the people we work with and that whatever we do it should never be prefaced with the word “Just”.

Our brains are the most amazing bit of kit that nature has ever created and yet at times it can be the dumbest; because it believes everything you say, whether it’s to yourself or to someone else.

So every time Sue was saying she “just” did this or that what her brain heard was her belittling herself but it’s not just her brain. All of her colleagues heard her say it as well and their brains thought just a little bit less of Sue in that instance.

The words you use to describe yourself, what you do and how you do it are some of the most important you will ever use. Because whatever habit you get into is the message your brain will reinforce in its memory.

Given how many times you talk about what you do, over time the effect is like the proverbial rain drop eroding the rock.

And it doesn’t just apply to the way you describe your job. It applies to the way you value your time, your money and your relationships.

The words you use will betray the way you think both to yourself and to the people in your life.

Choose your words carefully and remember this fantastic insight.

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

Have a thoughtful day.

Dean Stuart's SignatureDene Stuart
Chief Thinking Officer


Dene is a qualified practitioner in Personality Profiling and Emotional Intelligence and has delivered training in these areas to hundreds of people in one to one coaching programmes, workshops and talks to business groups and students. He has twenty years experience in high pressure senior corporate roles and has started, developed and closed several businesses. He has enjoyed significant success, and has come through personal and business failure.