The Elements

By Judith Bowman   |   August 2, 2016

The Power of Words in the Workplace

Categories: Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership

When we are fully absorbed in an activity, the mind tends to get focused and more pointed. “Me” time away from business-at-hand allows the mind to become steadier, quieter, promoting more awareness, harnessing new energy, allowing us to be more attentive.

Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Words can change everything in a split second. Words can change our thoughts, our hearts, our minds, our world – and even others’ worlds.

Words can inspire, encourage and motivate. The words we use can determine our destiny. The words we utter are what we hear about ourselves, affect our self-image and alter our course. If we hear it, we think it, our brain believes it and we act upon it.

You may have seen the video that went viral of the blind man sitting on the pavement begging for spare change collecting only meager amounts when a Good Samaritan came along and changed the message on his sign. The words on the blind man’s sign changed from: “spare change?” to:  “It’s a beautiful day but I can’t see it.” When people read the new words, the homeless man’s fortunes changed.

Think of your words as an echo. Whatever you put out will come back to you. Whatever follows “I am”  ______ (i.e. tired, unlucky, etc.) will come back looking for you.

Thoughts, both positive and negative become the conduit to the “I am” phrase. When we say (and thereby hear) the words we invite those qualities in. When we constantly talk about negativity, lack defeat, our own words will pave the way for defeat, failure.

When I say, “I am so tired,” I actually get more tired. To change my course, I won’t necessarily say “I feel wonderful” (when I don’t) – however, “I will be refreshed soon” or “I’m looking forward to getting my second wind,” might work.

Listen to the difference in these few words:
  • “What do you want?” vs. “How may I help you?”
  • “Look on my website” vs. “Let me take this opportunity to answer that for you.”
  • “Let’s meet and talk” vs.  “I’d like to get together to explore ideas.”
  • “Sorry” vs. “Please accept my apology.”

At Disney stores worldwide, good buyers are called “Guests” and potential trouble makers or shoplifters are called “Customers.” This is helpful when staff need to point out someone difficult to the store manager or security. They simply say, “A customer here needs help!” directing them to the potentially problematic “customer.”

Now that you better understand the incredible power of words, are you wisely choosing the words you use in the workplace?


Judith Bowman
Business Protocol

Judith Bowman founded Protocol Consultants International in 1993 and has prospered to become an established Business Protocol expert, educator, corporate speaker, and renowned authority in the field of Professional Presence, Dining Savvy, International Protocol Awareness, and personal and professional development. Ms. Bowman also provides Protocol Certification. She is a graduate of Boston College and has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University.

Ms. Bowman speaks to critical interpersonal communication skills and shares specific nuances advantageous to exemplary conduct in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive global work environment. She showcases everyday business situations and shows professionals how to leverage these as opportunities to demonstrate respect while earning respect – while showing you know “the difference” while making a difference to stand apart and outclass the competition!

Ms. Bowman has authored two business protocol books: “Don’t Take the Last Donut…” (Career Press) presently sold in 16 countries, translated in 14 languages, and her new book, “How to Stand Apart @ Work …” She has authored a weekly Everyday Etiquette column syndicated throughout New England for ten years by the Pulitzer Prize winning Eagle Tribune Publishing Company. Internationally, she authored a Business Protocol column for the prestigious Noblesse Magazine, China. She presently writes a weekly Business Protocol column for Boston Herald newspapers and has a coordinating weekly radio segment, “A Protocol Moment” on Herald Radio.
She also writes a monthly Fabulous Woman series which features truly fabulous women who have shattered the glass ceiling and has been featured in Leader to Leader, March, 2015.

Bowman has produced a series of support products which include: Executive Etiquette/First Impressions DVD, DINING 101 DVD and Protocol Training DVD – from her on-line How to Stand Apart series.

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Andrea Schlapia
Organizational Development and Human Capital
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