Words – in today’s vocabulary, are more powerful than they have ever been in our existence. Simple letters assembled together have the ability to make you feel like you are on top of the world; or, they can serve as a guillotine and do irreparable damage.
Depending on your intent, words can be used as a tool and if utilized wisely, could lead to one achieving the result they so seek. Knowing this, the responsibility to learn and choose words carefully, is great and often not treated with the respect it so deserves.
I am partial to the topic of words because, as I said, they can have an impact far greater than many other things in life. Words define you. They speak to your intent and more importantly, subsequent expectations, which are derived by others from the words you choose.
When I look up the word “expectation” it says, “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” My friends, if the sheer definition of that word doesn’t derive intentional pause, then you may be failing to grasp the impact your words have. To think, that during a harmless conversation, you have the ability to set, for yourself or others, an expectation and not even realize it! Extrapolate further – if that expectation you set is one of hope for the other person and you fail to live up to that expectation – not good.
I recall having an impromptu business meeting recently where I was presented some information for consideration. At some point during the conversation, I said, “We should look into that further…” At that exact moment, I failed to realize that to the person with whom I was speaking, I set an expectation: “I want you to look into this further and get back to me.”
Clearly, that wasn’t my real intent but I chose words that were interpreted otherwise. Looking back, I should have said something like, “At some point, when other priorities are addressed, we should consider looking into this topic further – but for now, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention.” Yes, I know – much longer… more words… more thought required to choose the above sentence versus its predecessor but I could easily argue that the latter sentence sets a very clear expectation and the conversation (and any subsequent action that may have started) ends – no room for interpretation.
Setting expectations is a part of life and unfortunately, at times, things come up and we cannot uphold the expectation we set. Where we often fail, however, is that we do not reset the expectation that we previously set. In its simplest form, setting an expectation, to some extent, is no different than making a promise and when you don’t keep your promise, you damage your reputation.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have previously committed to something and cannot uphold your end, take ownership of the issue, no matter its importance, and inform the person expecting you to come through. Sure, they may be upset and some damage will be done, but you can clearly work together towards a new expectation and continue moving forward.
Remember, not every day is going to be a great but when you take ownership of your words and actions, you’ll find comfort in knowing that you did the best you could with what you had.
Be mindful – pause – and be clear on what you want to say. The words you use could make or break you.