Bring Our Heart to Work—Words Matter

To bring our heart to work, we need to propel results with positive emotions. Emotions help us navigate our environments and connect with others. However, we shouldn’t regard emotions as just nice, touchy-feely things to welcome into our office culture only when it’s convenient to do so. Emotions can improve an organization’s ability to collaborate, innovate, and problem-solve when properly channeled.

Wharton Professor Michael Parke discovered that emotional sharing often leads to productive conversations and “more creative outcomes.” The best results occur when teams put their feelings on the table and then work them out as part of a natural process without casting judgment. When the leader of a brainstorming meeting in this type of open organization asks the group, “How does everyone feel about that?” she expects honest answers. The team brings genuine issues into the light and and solve them before they fester into something less manageable later.

If the culture sets the right tone and embraces emotions everybody offer ideas that otherwise would not have been heard. When you hear a reserved individual say things like “I don’t know, guys, I have a weird feeling about this,” or “Hey, I have a crazy idea,” that’s the time for the group to stop and listen. Indeed, the team might be making a breakthrough! This is an opportune moment for the leader to ask the individual, “Please, tell us more.”

Closer to the Heart: Words of Connection

How do we bring the heart on the workplace? Through the power of words! Words have enormous power: They can connect, inspire, or hurt and destroy. We’ve seen how ugly politics can be when words are used as weapons to insult other people and incite others to perform acts of violence. On the reverse, speeches from great orators such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela unified people and created massive social change. On a smaller scale, we’ve all witnessed how praising an employee’s abilities with the right words can boost his confidence to excel at performing specific tasks.

Be mindful when it comes to choosing your words. What you say may not matter, but your words may stick with someone else forever. Words don’t disintegrate in the air after being voiced, especially since we now have cameras on our phones and social media apps that can broadcast them to the world and save them for all posterity. A tongue has no bones but can instantly break someone’s heart.

An Exercise to Bring Heart to the Work

.As leaders, we secretly desire to be inspirational. As we are all aware, this doesn’t always come easily. Our word choice can make the difference between shifting people from understanding to excitement to commitment. If we want to have a greater impact, we need to be cognizant of using words that create an emotional state. The next time you craft key messages, think about how you want people to feel and then choose words in the list below to help write a sentence. Feel free to use as many words as you believe will enhance your message and speak to the head, heart, and gut.

Words can be so potent that their impact goes far beyond anything humans can hear, read, or otherwise detect. Depending on their context and how they are expressed, negative words contain emotional vibrations that enter our hearts and assault our bodies and souls.

The Lingering Effects of Toxic Language

Scientists have proven this theory and demostrated that toxic language harm humans. A group of researchers acquired data from 5,616 college students about verbal abuse from parents, peers, and supervisors. They found that verbal abuse is a form of emotional abuse intended to inflict intense humiliation, denigration, or extreme fear. Perceived parental verbal abuse in childhood and peer-related verbal abuse in adolescence associates with a risk of depressive mood, anxiety, anger/hostility, suicidal tendencies, or drug use in young adulthood. Moreover, the experience of perceived verbal abuse can cause a change in patterns of brain maturation. The experience, can compromise brain resting state functional connectivity, and impact brain gray matter volumes in regions responsible for sensory processing, emotional regulation, and social interaction-related cognitive functioning, such as language and memory.

Harmful language has tangible impact, whether for a child or an adult. In the workplace, we must choose our words wisely and recognize that they can linger and fester.

Feathers in the Wind

I couldn’t illustrate this better by sharing a nineteenth-century folktale involving a young fellow slandering the town’s wise man. One day, the young man felt so guilty about spreading lies that he decided to go to the wise man’s home and beg his forgiveness.

The wise man didn’t believe the young man had fully internalized the gravity of his transgressions. Therefore, he said he would forgive him on one condition. He must take a feather pillow outside his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers in the wind. The young man was puzzled by the request but happy to be let off with such an easy penance. When he returned home, he cut up a pillow outdoors and watched the wind blow the feathers in all directions. Feeling accomplished, the young man returned to the wise man’s home.

“Am I now forgiven?” he asked.

“Just one more thing,” replied the wise man. “Go now and gather up all the feathers.”

“But that’s impossible. The wind has already scattered them.” The same thing happens when words are released.

Action Framework to Bring our Heart to Work

  • Think of a relationship you were in that made you feel happy and connected. What words would you use to describe that relationship?
  • Now, think of a relationship that involved friction. Compare how you spoke to this person one-on-one versus how you talked about her when she wasn’t around.
  • In the latter scenario, think about how changing your words might convert the conflicted relationship into one of connection.

Would you like to know more about the heart at work? Discover how to lead with heart!

Unlock the greatest version of yourself and your organization