Whatever your mission or cause, if you need the help of other people, you should choose your words carefully to gain their support. Our ultra-sensitive world pays attention to our language.  If you choose the right words, you increase the chance of gaining cooperation.  If you choose the wrong words, you tend to spark conflict.

Many of the current challenges in today’s society are complex.  We face complex issues at home, work, balancing schedules and demands, the expectations of others, as well as our own psychological, spiritual, and emotional baggage.  We may begin thinking life can be navigated alone, but we soon realize that we need each other.

We all need a team if we are going to successfully navigate the challenges we take on or cannot avoid.   Everyone has a need for community, or relatedness.  As human beings, there is something deep within us that seeks the company of others.  As we become more aware of the complexity of our world, teamwork is more important than ever before, especially with the reality of vocational specialization.  As individuals, we simply do not have the knowledge or ability to solve complex problems.

Therefore, it is important to build your team.  This team can take many forms for different purposes.  Regardless of the team you need to assemble, or join, your first step will always be the same.  You need to choose your words carefully.

When a group of people come together, there are several steps that must happen for people to jell.  Leaders need to emerge, roles need to be assumed, values and norms need to be established, outcomes need to be agreed upon, and guidelines need to be established.  Consciously or sub-consciously, there is a lot going on in the formation of any team or group.  This is the reason you must choose your words carefully.

For example, some people have a natural tendency to be polarizing.  They like to debate issues and take strong positions on politics, religion, or some value they hold dearly.  These people are important to any group because they help remind us of our boundaries of right and wrong.  They also remind us that we cannot always choose to sit on the fence.  They play an important role on our team, yet their input often gets ignored or debated because of their strong opinions and forceful communication style.  Without the proper understanding, appropriate communication skill, and understanding of group dynamics, these people often limit their own influence.

Writing can also be another huge challenge.  Have you ever written an angry e-mail?  Have you ever placed too much faith in the spell-checker in your word processor?

Recently, I attempted to type the word, “emulate”.  I wanted to convey the importance of looking toward people worthy of respect and imitating, or learning, from their example. As I carefully proofed my document, I noticed I substituted the word, “immolate.”  The word was not highlighted as a spelling error, yet I did not know its meaning.  I sought the dictionary definition and discovered, to my horror, its true definition.  “Kill or offer as a sacrifice, especially by burning.”  This was definitely not the idea I wanted to convey toward people I admire.

The ability to choose your words carefully is an important skill in order to work together in a manner to solve complex problems.  It is also important if we are going to satisfy our need for human relatedness.  I will share throughout this month some of the lessons I have learned to build my teams.  I welcome your comments about things you have learned as well.

What is the most important element to building or joining a team?

Choose Your Words Carefully