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Reflections: Why Words Matter

Reflections Blog ImageWow, what a week. July 13th – July 19th was filled with joy and sadness, hope and fear, peace and tumult, old friends and new relationships. Each experience brought forth enhanced understanding of a phrase I use often: “Words Matter.”

The words in my head

Sunday launched the week with a 40-year reunion of my high school youth group. As I drove to the venue, the talk in my head transformed me to my former 17-year-old self. My thoughts, my memories, my reality for a brief time drifted to 1974.

As I parked my car, I saw a slender, tall gentleman with gray hair walking in to the bowling alley. Flash thought: “I didn’t know parents were joining us.” And then I realized, he and I were the graying adults. Time warp in a matter of seconds, based on the words in my head.

Sticks and stones…

By Tuesday I was squarely back in adult business mode. I had an meeting with a prospect, and sure enough words were the cornerstone of our discussion. I was meeting with a 30-something entrepreneur who needed content to market a new product.

This product is for women.  Check. I know something about that.

This product is for women experiencing changes as a result of being beyond child-bearing years. Check. I know something about that.

This product is called “O-Shot.” The O is short for orgasm.  WAIT A MINUTE. If I know something about that, I’m not going to talk about that with you.  Remember I was a teen in the ’70s. When I was in grade school, we watched “Leave It To Beaver.”

At the conclusion of our meeting, I was hit by the impact of words: orgasm versus intimacy; incontinence versus bladder control; painful sex versus low libido. Some words really made me uncomfortable; others – with basically the same meaning – allowed me to receive the message.

It occurred to me that”..but words will never hurt me”  does not apply to business. Words do hurt business when business communications use the wrong words for its target market. When words do not resonate with the marketplace, buyers don’t buy. When words resonate and motivate, buyers take action.

Reporting from war zones

Sadly the work week ended with reports from the Russian-Ukraine border that a plane was shot down killing hundreds of innocent people and the border between the Gaza Strip and southern Israel continues to flame decades of conflict.

Depending upon the reporter’s words, the interviewer’s phraseology and the background venue, each media outlet relayed similar facts with starkly varying messages.

Online, I found several headlines such as: “What you need to know about the about the Israeli-Gaza conflict.” The history, the geography and the timeline were all similar. But then the choice of words for story sub-heads created differing messages and reader perceptions.

After listing the facts of the conflict, one article concluded with this subhead: “What this means to the people of Gaza.” Another story with this subhead: “Hamas Rejects Egyptian Cease Fire Accepted By Israel.” Do you perceive a difference? Words and word combinations matter.

Words to the wise

“The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”      — Mark Twain in a Letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888

Whether the words are spoken, written or unspoken – they matter. So…here are my words to the wise: Strategy. Words. Market.

Strategy. A plan developed after asking, researching and answering these three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for?

Words. Carefully woven messages crafted only after listening to intended recipients.

Market. The location(s) where your customers and prospects hang out in order to solve their problems when they take action as a result of your strategies and words.

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