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Communication: Struggling for the Right Words?

Credit: Scott Adams

Struggling for words?

Picture this: deep in conversation and suddenly struggling for the right words to express your ideas, feelings, or thoughts! It is a common situation, but one we can learn to manage better than might be the case today!

Why is this issue even important? Simple, it is a reflection of you and how those around you respond to you. How you choose and use your words sets a baseline for how others receive them, be it positive or negative. The challenge of finding the right words in a given situation impacts all of us but is particularly important for leaders.

Using an example to frame the issue in a relatable way:

Sophia walks into a performance evaluation meeting, where she needs to deliver some tough feedback to Peggy, a team member that has worked hard all year but still fell short in team project expectations. Sophia opens the conversation with: “Peggy, I wish I didn’t have to deliver this message but I can’t let it keep sliding.” Ten minutes into the discussion, Peggy still shell shocked says: “I’m still kind of shocked you didn’t say anything before.” The stilted conversation continues for a few more minutes before Sophia ends it by rhyming off a long list of performance action items. Both walk out of the room feeling the conversation didn’t go well…

Leading us to ask, what word choices and techniques help us through these situations?

A roadmap for choosing the right words

“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.” 


Much has been said about the power of words and their impact, so our best gift is learning how to leverage words as a positive force within ourselves. So, let’s get right to it.

We start by recognizing the importance of slowing down to get into the right frame of mind. Slow down thinking, inner chatter, and be present within the moment by checking other thoughts at the door for now. 

Armed with a helpful mindset, we can turn our attention to specific word choice techniques and “dos and don’ts”.

Overcoming the struggle for the right words

Equipped with new communication techniques, let’s go back to Sophia and Peggy. Sophia now opens up the conversation with “Thanks for taking the time to meet me, Peggy. I want to have an open conversation about the last six months: how you think it is going, what you’d like to see change, and how we build an even stronger team.”

The opening is polite, assertive, inclusive, simple and uses the rule of three. 

The conversation continues where Peggy shares her views on the last six months. When Sophia once again leads the conversation, she uses positive words to open up the “tough feedback” section:

“I know we can improve our team’s performance, just like an F1 race support team do everything for the driver and the team. I’d like to talk about how you can help this effort. Let’s start with where you can step up and take on more project work…”

The conversation continues along these lines to address three areas of improvement. The conversation tone remains assertive, uses analogies, includes the rule of three, and is simple. 

As the end result, Sophia and Peggy had a constructive conversation producing a clear and simple action plan to improve Peggy’s performance and as a by-product the team’s performance. Using these simple techniques combined with a slow and thoughtful approach produces the desired outcome for Sophia, and she is no longer struggling for the right words. 

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Section or comment below to share your views, tips, and tricks on how you find the right words when you communicate with others.

Give it a try!

Have any Question or Comment?

2 comments on “Communication: Struggling for the Right Words?

[…] good news is that I’ve covered some of these topics in other blogs including Communication: Struggling for the Right Words, Rapport with Strangers is as Easy as With Family, Effective Listening, a Priceless […]

[…] simple example demonstrates how important it is to master our choice of words, phrases, or expressions to ensure we clearly understand what it conveys about our beliefs, values, or mindset. It is […]

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