I recently spoke to a business associate who had a staff member with an abusive tongue. His language and derogatory comments cost them several major accounts and ruined countless client relationships.
This lesson has taught me several different key ideas, which I’d like to share with you:
1) Do not speak badly about others
The old adage is, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything”. This saying was made popular in the original Bambi movie, but its impact has never been more true than it is today. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites allowing business owners and managers to blow off steam, it is a best practice to keep your derogatory comments to yourself.
In the heat of anger or frustration, we often say things we will regret later. However, social media makes these negative comments a permanent record online, so watch what you say, and to whom.
2) Do not use foul language or racial slurs – EVER!
This seems like an obvious thought, but you’d be surprised how often people will resort to vulgar language to make a point. This type of language has NO place in the business world, and should not be a part of your vocabulary anyway. The same goes for racial slurs, or comments about appearance, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
These comments in the workplace are considered personal attacks, and are VERY unprofessional. As the old Irish saying goes, “Vulgarity makes ignorance audible”. Keep your choice of words on a professional level.
3) Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you
In the heat of the discussion, we are often emotionally charged and become agitated. While this is a natural reaction to conflict, the results can often be harmful to the relationship if we allow our emotions to escalate.
Instead of getting angry, try walking away for a few minutes, taking a step back and thinking through what points you’d like to make, then re-approach the discussion with a clear head (this would be a great time to re-fill your coffee or use the restroom). This way, you can make your position known without conflicting with the other person. Its OK to have a different opinion on something than the other person has.
4) Do not try to win an argument – You never really win
This goes along with the prior point, and often the emotional escalation comes from our desire to win. Keep in mind that in order for us to win, the other person has to lose. Share your opinions or beliefs calmly, and don’t feel like you have to be right. Some people need to hear an opposing viewpoint and take time to think through it. To force another person’s will is called control, and no one likes to be controlled. Try to seek a “win-win” approach, and find a position of compromise.
5) Do not retaliate
Once you have your discussion, you can agree to disagree. Unless it affects your physical survival, the outcome of the discussion or being proven right may not be all that important. Remember, the relationship is more important than the outcome, especially if the person you’re discussing with is someone you work with everyday. They will respect your viewpoint more if you come across clearly and calmly than if you argue and yell at them. Again, no one is really “right” or “wrong”, they just have different opinions.
Every topic has an opposing viewpoint, and every task involving others has some disagreement as to how things should be done. As long as we remember that we are not always right or the best-informed on a topic, then we will be open to hearing what others think. In today’s business climate of collaboration, our professional use of language is more important than ever. So watch your language!