Traveling over the holidays to visit family outside of
Denver, we were fortunate to arrive after a blizzard stranded
thousands at the airport, and depart before the cancellation of
flights for a second storm. However, our holiday presents were not as
fortunate. Okay, things happen.
Following up on the undelivered gifts we were informed by a customer
service representative, "Your packages are scheduled to arrive on the
26th." No packages arrived on the 26th or the 27th or the 28th or
the 29th ... you get the point. Yet each time we called back, we were
told they should be delivered tomorrow.
Credibility could have been preserved if the carrier had simply told
us the truth. Inundated with hundreds of thousands of displaced
packages due to a two-day transportation shutdown, they had no idea
when our particular packages would be delivered. Instead, they did
what many people do. They chose weasel words to evade, retreat and
avoid commitment. They told us what they thought we wanted to hear.
Like a weasel sucking out an egg's content without destroying the
shell, weasel words give the appearance of communicating information
as they suck out meaning. Words like many, much, should, maybe,
often, some or seems can be put in that category. So can common
workplace phrases like: "it has come to my attention;" "many people
think;" "it has been decided;" or "we can deal with that later." It's
easy to find them. Just listen for what is not being said and you'll
spot the weasel words.
These avoidance, non-committal spin words erode communication, trust
and credibility. Of course, we all use them from time to time. But
there's a difference when we opt for their use to intentionally
deceive. People who deliberately choose weasel words to deflect
conflict, disagreement, obligation or accountability are not people
who are winning at working.
People who are winning at working know the power of words to build
relationships, influence results, and enhance trust. They also know
their power to diminish credibility, motivation and results if
they're used to create spin, deflect accountability or avoid
commitment. Every word you use is a choice to build or diminish trust.
While weasel words attempt to soften the impact of unpopular
messages, especially in the workplace, in reality they build walls,
diminish confidence, increase suspicion, enhance rumors, and reduce
results. Honest communication comes with risk, but so does dishonest
communication, and those risks are greater.
Just so you know, I won't be using that delivery carrier anytime
soon. Not because the packages missed the mark, I can understand
that, but because their words did. Like Mark Twain said, "When in
doubt, tell the truth."
©2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Sign up to receive Nan's complimentary biweekly eColumn at
http://www.winningatworking.com. Nan Russell has spent over twenty
years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She
has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development,
Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from
Stanford and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently
finishing her new book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is
a columnist, writer and speaker. Visit http://www.nanrussell.com