By: Steve Scaffidi, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
There's an old saying, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Although that's probably much easier in theory than in practice, the sentiment is still a good one. We've all said things that we wish we could take back, or at least word-smith the language we used a bit. Even presidential candidates in this current election cycle have fallen into this trap, attacking their opponent's wives or making fun of certain mannerisms or personal habits, seemingly forgetting that they are running for the most powerful position in the world.
Choosing one's words carefully, with some thought to how we say or even write something, can be easier said than done. But is it? Self-editing by selecting the right word or phrase to convey a message or even a feeling is a deliberate process. Just like great speakers have the ability to process what they say, right before they say it, taking a moment to assess a response before responding can give you a chance to measure and set the right tone in the words you use.
Not sure you can do this? Try this method. If it's an email you're responding to, write it in a voice that's conversational, as if you were speaking face-to-face with the person you replying to. This will help you put the right tone on the conversation, and probably limit any risk of misinterpretation or worse, irritation, by the recipient. Most conversations are civil, so there isn't a logical reason why emails shouldn't also be.
If you're involved in an actual conversation, which sadly is becoming more rare these days thanks to technology, use the pause method to think about the words you are going to say, instead of just blurting out a rapid reply to the person you're talking to. It doesn't have to be a painful or awkward pause (or so long that the other person begins to look for signs you are still breathing), just a few seconds to gather your thoughts, choosing words that indicate you've listened to what the other person said, and aren't being dismissive. Whether you agree or disagree, opinions are opinions, and everybody has them. Don't let an argument ensue, when a good, friendly give and take of ideas can bring out the best in both participants.
Just like a badly played instrument, poorly handled communications can ruin anyone's message. Why not treat every conversation, written or spoken, like it's an opportunity to advance a discussion, or find a solution to a problem? Despite our world of instantaneous and constant communication, it's not a race. Take the time to think before you respond. What's the worst that could happen? People call you a deep thinker?