We vs You – Building a Team Vocabulary

The language we use when communicating with people has a tremendous impact on their relationship with us, their work and their environment. Small word choices and phrasing make a big difference, and yet it can be the one area that we allow to get away from us and often speak without thinking. When developing a team, your word choices are especially important because they reflect your mentality, and how you think of the whole – whether you consider yourself separate and above, or whether you’re treating every team member as part of the same unit. If you’ve never given much thought to how you speak to your team, now is the time to revise the words you choose to use.

  • We vs You. One of the most important things you can do is to make people feel like part of a team. Of course, they will still have their own individual tasks and responsibilities, but tying this into the whole makes them feel secure and needed. Using phrases such as “what can we do to fix this,” rather than “how are you going to fix this,” make a huge difference psychologically, making the other person feel more comfortable and supported. In addition, making an effort to use inclusive language goes a long way.
  • Don’t dismiss previous experience. Rather than saying “here’s how we do it,” take the opportunity to listen to a new team member and find out how they’re accustomed to working. You may find something to learn from, and at the very least will make it more comfortable for the new member. Things like “how would you approach this?” might allow you both to meet in the middle.
  • Offer suggestions rather than criticism. Sometimes your team won’t complete a project as fast as you need them to, or as efficiently. Sometimes people just completely drop the ball. In these situations you can either cast the blame and set the person into a negative mindset that they then have to work out of, or you can do something more constructive. Phrases like “could we try this again, but with ____ this time?” or “could you check over this to make sure it’s correct before we send it on” give the team or team member the opportunity to fix their own mistakes and remain positive. If you need to give criticism, make sure you do it in a constructive way.

Paying attention to and carefully choosing your words goes a long way towards encouraging inclusiveness, comfort and feeling like a true part of a team.