We create our lives by what we think, say and do; and we create our lives by what we don’t think, don’t say, don’t do. We tend to treat these three elements as distinct: we talk about strategic thinking, crucial conversations and then powerful execution. The fact of the matter is that these three things we label as thoughts, words and deeds are in a fluid and dynamic relationship with each other, moving, like waves, back and forth in our internal and collective consciousness. Think of a finger-spinner in motion.
The reason I love to focus on communication – on words, conversations, language – as the heart and the soul of everything we are all trying to create in the world is this. You have no idea what I think about anything unless I tell you. My thoughts are invisible to you unless I give form to them in words or writing. My actions? All you can possibly do with my actions is to interpret them and turn them into stories you then share with others. Sometimes that works in my favor, sometimes it does not. But ultimately our actions are not our own. So our thoughts can remain secret, our actions become other people’s stories. But our words – our words are always our own.
Every single word that emerges from your mouth today is the result of a choice you make to say it. You could go through the entire day tomorrow not saying a single word, but you will. And so will everyone else: 14,000 words on average, apparently, every one of us. This explains why we live in a noisy world.
It doesn’t have to be this way. My workshops prove again and again that talking less allows you to say more – and that makes for much more effective communication, as measured by the results that happen because of it.
My workshops tend to be for business leaders aiming to improve the projects and organizations they run, but this work is for everybody, which is why I am writing this book. My commitment is that it will help as many people as possible treat their words with the respect they deserve and be more choice-ful about what and how they speak. My intention is that every word they say can become a reflection of the best of their character, and a gift, their contribution, to making their world better, within whatever sphere of influence they have.
As I write this, one of my friends texted to say she is at a hospital, alongside an aunt who is awaiting the results of tests. I know this aunt has been a profound influence on my friend’s life. The aunt is widowed and without children. Some of the words that my friend will say in the next few hours will be as important as any she has said before or since. Words are not cheap unless we cheapen them – and this is not just about finding ‘the right words’ – it’s about the space from which we speak them.
And so it can be with every word that becomes our communication, that becomes, in the end, how we shape the world.