Some words just sound rude…

Personally I believe language is very important… I would, wouldn’t I?  After all, language is my trade.

I was running a course last week with a great bunch of franchisees but I was reminded of the importance of language when a franchisee said something entirely innocently, but the words used were perceived in the wrong way… and all hell broke loose.

This got me thinking about words and how some words mean one thing but sound as they should mean something else.

Take the word ‘flange’.

It’s a great word to say – try in now.  Flange.

You might want to make sure you’re in private when you roll the word around your mouth, because it sounds as though it should be incredibly rude.  It’s not, of course.  It just sounds as though it should be.

A flange, by the way, is a ‘projecting flat rim…’ like on the rim around a train’s wheel that keeps it on the track.

Well, one thing led to another and we expanded our discussions to include instruction manuals.  There were the old favourites:

Found in the manual of a toaster: ‘Do not immerse in water’.

On a MacDonalds coffee cup: ‘Caution, contents may be hot’.

And my own favourite.  When I was working with a gardening franchise I learned all about gardening equipment and how to operate it.  The instructions for starting a petrol driven lawn mower went something like this: ‘Pump the nipple until…’  I can’t quite remember until what, because I was so busy giggling in a teenage boy type way!

All jolly funny and amusing.

But there is a serious point to all this and that is we don’t take enough time to consider the impact of what we say and the effect it has on our business.

You see, potential clients won’t say to you that they don’t appreciate the way you are talking and would you mind moderating your language a bit.  No, what they’ll do is smile sweetly at you, nod in all the right places and then never call you again.

Ever had that situation, when everything went swimmingly in a meeting, ‘that’s another one in the bag,’ you thought to yourself, only for the client never to be heard from again?

There are three danger areas to be really careful with when talking with someone particularly for the first time:

  • Profanity (someone once said to me about one of their clients: he speaks two languages fluently; English and profane)
  • Inappropriate humour (not everyone finds the same things funny)
  • ‘Isms’… everything from ageism to sexism to racism and all the others.  Remove ‘isms’ from your psyche.

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