“Le Mot Juste” just the right word, in the French language there is always the right word for any situation. The right word in a coaching situation can bring about the desired outcome for the client. The right word can lead the client on a path they had not been down before. The right word can reframe perspectives or lead to greater self-awareness, thus, the power of words in coaching. Words have power. They have the power to evoke emotion. Emotions are what motivate us, when an emotion is identified, when words are attached to an emotion, the door opens for communication. Communication is words. We use words to express ourselves. In the coaching process when you have the words communication begins, when communication begins the coaching process begins. One of the most powerful words in coaching is Positive. Positivity is inherent in the coaching process. It is the ideal for which the coach and client strive. Goal orientation, action, intent, energizing, significance, these are positivity oriented words.
In coaching the search is for intent, in order to significantly energize our clients into action. When acknowledgement is used to motivate the client it is the words that are used to encourage and enthuse the client into continuing in the process of goal orientation and action. There are many words to express the intent of the coach with the client. Here we are interested in “Le Mot Juste”, the right word.
In the words of Susan Smalley, PhD, Huffington Post,
I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others. I never thought about a word being alive, but then I thought of words spoken 3,000 years ago, written down and passed through many generations, and they seem quite alive today when read or spoken today having lived 3,000 years. As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect or to create and effect change, I am never more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me.
There are those that will argue that words are just, words that they have no power, no great effect. Politicians use words, marketers use words, teachers and preachers use words. Words define, they define our universe, world, culture, society, families, work, play, us, our beliefs. Words can boost, and they can destroy. One word can have such an impact as to change the beliefs and views of entire cultures. Hate is a word. Love is a word. Tolerance is a word. Race is a word. Joy is a word. Happy is a word. Strong is a word. Empowered is a powerful word. Recession is a powerful word. Take any one of these words, and take a moment to experience that word. What kind of emotion does each word evoke in you? There have been factions in the world that have tried to destroy words, through censorship and book burnings. Yet they will deny the power of the word.
In coaching words are used to explore to find the words that have the greatest meaning for the client. Kevin Hall, author of Aspire, reminds us of a childhood rhyme we learned as children “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me”. But this is not true. Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can break my heart. Kevin Hall, also states that words have tremendous power for good or for ill. They can inspire or expire. The choice is ours.
- Choose to heal or choose to wound.
- Choose to affirm or choose to reject.
- Choose to inspire or choose to expire.
- Choose to praise or choose to criticize.
- Choose to appreciate or choose to depreciate.
- Choose to focus on strength or choose to focus on weakness.
Using words and language that lift the human spirit creates a new paradigm in thinking. Instead of “What can I get?” our mentality shifts to “What can I give?”
Words used in the wrong context can wound, reject, depreciate and weaken. In the coaching process the right words, encouraging powerful words can evoke a sense of clarification, possibility and ability to reach the goals that have been set by them. Words evoke emotion and emotion motivates. One word when encountered can evoke deep emotion. In order to validate this theory, four people were asked the question, “Which one word evokes the greatest emotion in you?”
No. 1: Carolene answered: “resillience“. When asked to explain why that word, she said that she could handle any situation and come out of it unscathed.
Carolene is a mother of four.
No. 2: Dan answered: “integrity“. When asked to explain he said, ” Integrity embodies honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness and because of this I feel most strongly about integrity.
Dan is the Director of a Chiropractic Clinic
No 3: Bonnie answered with the word: “love“. explaining that love is behind all of her actions in life. That living with love in her heart motivates her to be a better person, daily.
Bonnie is a Registered Nurse.
No 4: Milli answered “security“. Her explanation for her choice was that security is safety and financial solvency.
Milli is semi-retired and works part-time as an Admin. Asst.
For each of these individuals the one word that evokes the greatest emotion in them is the word they live by. In coaching powerful words enable the coach to understand the client and work closely with them in designing the process that will move them forward. In itself the word “understand” means to stand with, not under or below but “with”. When a person is understood they feel more connected. Words cannot only evoke emotion they can change perspectives, create awareness and empower a client. The right words have the ability to open pathways to understanding and a more powerful connection. A connection that is necessary for the coaching process in moving the client forward, closer to their life goals. When given the “one word”, the coach has the opportunity of learning more about the client and their values.
The importance of understanding is stated clearly in the book on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements, by Don Carlos Ruiz. In this context we are most interested in the first agreement:
Be impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.