The power of communication is vast. We use language to start conversations, to ask questions, to empathise, to congratulate and even to chastise, amongst many other things. Most importantly, we use language to spark and develop relationships, through spoken, written and non-verbal communication. But is our evolving use of language risking our relationships and self-worth? We use being ‘busy’ as a badge of honour, but in our rush to get things done are we altering our language away from open and conversation-friendly semantics to commands and instructions?
The likes of Alexa and Google Home have made it okay to ask (demand) something without a please or thank you (although Alexa is addressing this) and children are beginning to learn that this is the right way to interact. Now, although listening to my 4 year old ‘command’ her sister is slightly funny (‘Ok Molly, get me the crayons’,) it does raise some interesting questions around the wider evolution of language. Questions that perhaps my A-level in English Language doesn’t quite stretch to…
But how does this translate to the work place?
Well this is where the ‘busy’ badge of honour comes into play. ‘Need’, ‘have to’ and ‘must’ are all too common when talking to colleagues and clients. We use it as a way to labour our point, assert our status or try to get things done. But how much do you really ‘need’ something? Do you really ‘have to’ ask you team member to prioritise that task over another sending their ‘do-do’ list out the window, and why ‘must’ you have that report for 4pm, meaning that the person doing it stays late again for the 3rd time this week? Of course some tasks are driven by deadlines and that’s fine, sometimes you really do ‘need’ that report. But when we are adding to our colleagues already stressful list of things to do by using this authoritative language, is that really the right thing to do? By using this type of language, are we putting too many demands on the people we work with and is it creating unnecessary stress and pressure? I find this really apparent in the world of recruitment where everyone needs things done immediately (particularly where client requests are involved) and the race to find the best talent is only speeding up! Sometimes it feels like we have forgotten we are all working towards the same goal and that we are all in this together.
With people already feeling stressed enough in the workplace just through the content of their role or lack of support, is it really fair that we go around barking orders at colleagues and piling on the pressure? With companies really having to up their game when it comes to mental health support at work, perhaps it’s time to tone down our language and when we do really need something, just think about the way we are communicating and the position of the person you are asking. After all is it really too hard to say ‘please’?
Written by Heather Harrex, Client Relationship Director.