The Power of Precision

Think of a time when you heard words that seemed like magic. May be it was a public event, like Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “I have a dream speech”. May be it was the words of your father or mother or a special teacher. We can all remember moments when someone spoke with so much force and precision and resonance that the words stayed with us forever. Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind, Rudyard Kipling once said. We can all think of times when words did seem to have the magical, intoxicating quality.

When John Grinder and Richard Bandler studied successful people, they found many common attributes. One of the most important was precise communication skills. A manager has to manage information to be successful. Bandler and Grinder found that the most successful managers seemed to have a genius for getting to the heart of information rapidly and communicating to others what they had learned. They tended to use key phrases and words that conveyed their most important ideas with great precision.

They also understood that they did not need to know everything. They distinguished between what they needed to know and what they didn’t need to know, and focused on the former. Bandler and Grinder also observed that outstanding therapists like Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and Dr. Milton Erickson used some of the same phrase, phrases that many times enabled them to get immediate results with patient in one or two sessions instead of one or two years.

There is nothing surprising in what Bandler and Grinder found. Remember, we’ve learned that the map is not the territory. The words we use to describe experiences aren’t the experiences. They are just the best verbal representation we can come up with. So it stands to reason that one of the measures of success is how accurately and precisely our words can convey what we want and how closely our map can approximate the territory. Just as we all can remember times when words moved us like magic, we can also remember times when our communication went utterly, hopelessly awry. May be we thought we were saying one thing, but the other person got the opposite message. So just as precise language has the ability to move people in useful directions, sloppy language can misdirect them. If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought wrote George Orwell, whose 1984 is based on just that principle.

We are going to learn about tools that will help you communicate with more precision and effectiveness than you may have ever had before. You are going to learn how to guide others toward the same outcome. There are simple verbal tools that any of us use to cut through the verbal fluff and distortion most of us are caught up in. Words can be walls, but they can also be bridges. It is important to use words to link people rather than divide them.

Write just that at the top of a piece of paper – How to get whatever I want. And after the list is a big long buildup.

‘Ask’ it doesn’t mean whine or beg or complain or plead or grovel or expect a handout or a free lunch or an act of charity. It doesn’t mean expect someone else to do your work for you. What is meant is to ask intelligently and precisely at the work place. Learn to ask your assistant, colleagues and even superiors in a way that helps you both define and achieve your outcomes. The ‘way’ depends up on the actual situation that demands the asking.