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August 19, 2008

Watch your language!

I have always thought that one of the key skills a consultant has is his or her ability to use the English language like a knife. I became acutely aware of the power of words while watching the former prime Minister of Australia, Mr Paul Keating, in action.
Mr. Keating was not a political “nice guy”. In fact he was best described as a street brawler in the political sense. He was famous for his insults, and equally famous for his tenacity in politics; particularly after winning a supposedly unwinnable election.
But behind it all was his incredibly strong use of words and of the Australian vernacular. Even as a retiree he is able to craft one liners that leave everyone else on the political scene for dead, calling a member of the government at the time “All tip and no iceberg.”
What a great phrase! (You can have that one if you want)
Whether people tell you so or not, they are impressed by a good use of the English language, just as they are impressed by a strong vocabulary.
I currently work a lot of the time in Saudi Arabia where they love it when I use words that they have never heard before. A delegate on one of my courses recently told me that his own English had improved substantially since sitting through the course, and he was surprised at the response from his superiors.
Use of English does not just mean having a powerful vocabulary, although this is a prerequisite, it also means crafting words into powerful and impacting statements.
For example; one of my mentees recently handed me a proposal with the sentence “XYZ Company is not liable for the achievement of any benefits mentioned in this proposal at any time.”
Great, why else shouldn’t I trust you?
How much easier could this have been? How about a section on shared responsibilities, making it clear where the onus for each element of the project lay?
Or simply one sentence reading “We look forward to working in partnership with you to realize the value of this proposal”. Less aggressive, more friendly and still gets the point across that “It’s not my responsibility, it’s ours”
Watch your Language!” is going to become a regular segment our weekly newsletter starting from this week. 
Each week we will look at new and useful words from the English vocabulary and try to provide some good tips on how you can sharpen up your speeches, discussions and written work.
You can subscribe to the email newsletter here if you are interested.