Snog, marry, avoid
Ever seen this programme on BBC3? If you’ve not watched it, or even heard of it, then you might count yourself as one of the lucky few. So here’s a short summary for the uninitiated – it’s a crude ‘judging’ show where a heavily made up young lady is paraded in front of a range of men who are asked whether they would “snog, marry or avoid” her? And although it’s not a show I watch regularly (honestly), it’s concept has made me wonder about what type of words I would ‘snog, marry or avoid’ when it comes to communication.
You know what its like; you get into the habit of using certain words, and don’t even hear yourself saying them. And it’s almost certainly the same at your place of work; your colleagues will use certain words frequently, and you could probably play ‘identify the work colleague’ just by hearing certain words said out loud. Organisations too, get stuck in a rut using the same words, and half the time they don’t say anything specific, but are empty catch all phrases composed of the jargon of the moment.
Only last week I found myself thinking about the words that I use when facilitating adult learning. And, applying the same principles as the TV show, there are words that I would use occasionally (snog? I prefer the term kiss), words that I use frequently and love the response they provoke (I would definitely marry them), and words that I don’t use at all (avoid) because of the way they make me or other learners feel. I even made three distinct columns to classify them, but found myself putting some on the lines between columns because my fondness for them depended on how I wanted them to work for me (you might call me mercenary, but I like to make sure that my words work hard to be kept in my exclusive vocabulary).
So can you think of any words that you ‘snog, marry or avoid’? Do you ever listen to yourself and actually hear what you are saying? Do you think about the best words to use to get the response you want? Or do you watch others and see their response to the words you are using? How do the words other people use make you feel?
If the meaning of communication is in the response you get, then maybe its time to think a bit more about the power of the words you are using. Especially if you are involved in the learning and development of others, whether in schools, or universities, sports teams or business organisations, because we’ve all seen the videos, heard the recordings or read the scripts of great motivational speeches and know the impact they can have.
The words you use matter. Not only does the language you use communicate a lot about you, it can communicate what you think, expect or feel about those you are communicating with. Words can open up previously locked minds, show you new pathways, give you those glorious light bulb moments, and make you feel as if you could take on the world. Or they can close down options, shut minds, make you feel stupid, and ruin relationships. The words you use communicate what you think and how you feel about yourself, and what you think and how you feel about others.
Steven Covey talks about ‘starting with the end in mind’. How often do you think about the end result of your communication? How often do you think about what response you want to get from your communications, how you want to be thought of and treated by others? How often do you think about which words to choose to craft your sentences, scaffold your questions and construct your tasks to get the response you want to get?
So if you are a teacher, lecturer, coach, trainer or facilitator, what words do you use to ask questions, what words do you use to deepen learning and stimulate higher order thinking? What words do you use to task activities?What words do you use to set context, protocols and expectations?
What words do you ‘snog, marry or avoid’?