Fable Friday: The power of words and a boustrophedon trainer’s tip

A few weeks ago I was conducting a training program in Seattle, and after reviewing the program objectives and agenda, I asked the learners to tell me what they wanted to get from the program.  (That’s a good idea if you’re a trainer. Tell them first what the course is about, then give them a chance to add their own needs.  Be “learner-centric.”)

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedWell, it was a big crowd, maybe 70 people sitting in three sections, one in front of me and one on each side. I started with the row of learners in the back and when I got to the end of the row, no one knew who should go next.  I said, “Okay, then let’s do a boustrophedon movement, and you go next,” pointing to the learner sitting directly in front of the last one to speak.

Now boustrophedon is not a word you hear every day, but I had some fun with it in this session because I shared the meaning with the learners. Boustrophedon is a method of writing in which lines are written alternately in opposite direction, from left to right and right to left. It derives from the Greek, literally “ox turning”, which refers to the movement of an ox while plowing a field (“bous” means ox, and “strophe” means turning).  You pass a collection plate in church in a boustrophedon movement. At the end of the row you pass the plate to the person behind you, and so on.

So why is this important in the context of this blog?  My last two posts have focused on the power of words, and their accurate usage.  The more words you have in your vocabulary, or inventory, the greater is your ability to select the perfect word when selling, negotiating, coaching or managing, and as we saw in the last two posts, words have powerful impact on the feelings of those you speak with.

Last week I got an email from a client, whose company negotiates with health care providers in behalf of insurance companies, who are their clients. He wanted to know what to do when the hospital says, “We don’t negotiate!”  Clearly, “negotiate” is a bad word in the mind of the hospital accounts receivable folks.  It’s the word that’s in the way, not rational discussion of the hospital bill.

So to my way of thinking, the right response is, “Okay, then let’s not negotiate it. Instead, let’s spend a few minutes reviewing this bill so I can get some clarity on how it was computed.”  There, now you’ve begun your negotiation!

All my life I’ve loved the magic and power of words.  I hope you get the bug too, because  the more words you know, the more clearly you’ll communicate.  Make an effort to learn a new word each day, and if you’re a trainer, include a fun word into every session as an example.

Here’s a good one.  “I went to pay for my movie tickets and was nonplussed when I found my wallet was missing.”  You were upset, confused, disconcerted.  This word is often misused as “unfazed, nonchalant,” so often that the opposite meaning is now recognized as a secondary definition in dictionaries.  You don’t ever want to misuse a word and then have to back-pedal with “the dictionary also shows this alternate meaning.”

And finally, do you know why autotonsorialists save a lot of money on haircuts? Words are fun, aren’t they?

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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