A word about words

It is said that relationships are the keys to success in business, as well as in life. Feeling a connection with a person you are speaking with is an important part of developing the rapport needed to build trust.

But have you ever thought about what makes you trust someone?


A few traits that usually stand out when you think about the people you feel safe with is that they are authentic, compassionate, and have integrity. Authenticity is being real or genuine. Compassion is feeling empathy and concern for others, coupled with wanting to soothe their distress. Integrity is having strong moral principles.

Now consider the last time you had a conversation with a close friend about something you found difficult. Let’s equate the thing to a business deal of some kind – say the sale of your family home.  Think about the kind of support your friend gave you as you weighed your decision. Did he acknowledge that the decision was difficult? That you were thinking about money and emotion as you debated the offers, or lack of offers, you received? Did he listen to establish your true motivations and then adjust his approach?

Ask yourself this: how did the words your friend used make you feel about her authenticity, compassion, and integrity?  Did she ask or say anything that resembled the following questions?

“What steps is your realtor taking to meet his deliverable? Maybe you should circle back with him.”

“You should consider the synergies between the current offer and your long-term housing objectives.”

“Selling your house is low-hanging fruit. Once you have the proceeds in hand, you can execute on the next steps.”

“I know this house has been in your family a long time; let’s take a deep dive and consider your rationale for remaining here.”

I’m going to guess your answer is no.

If your answer is yes, did you shut down a little and feel like you were being lectured rather than supported?  The same can be true in a business setting, where corporate lingo that adds little meaning often has the effect of making the speaker appear disingenuous, calculating, and a bit fake.

Consider how your language informs how your customers, potential investors, and business partners view you. Can they relate to you? Do they think you genuinely know what you’re talking about, or that you’re hiding behind buzz words to make yourself sound smart? Know your audience, of course, but try using everyday language to boost your rapport with those who matter most to your business. Focus on listening more than you speak.

I’m working on these things myself, since I want to be considered an approachable, understanding, and genuine partner. A stern and formal tone is often appropriate for a demand letter. However, the tone of the advice I give needs to resonate with my clients, which starts with listening to understand what those things might be!

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