Be careful of the words you say
Contractor tip of the month
By Damian Lang
Be careful of the words you say; keep them short and sweet. For you never know from day to day, which ones you will have to eat!
I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard my Uncle Gerald say this, but I bet it’s in the hundreds. It tells a lot about him and even more about leading others.
How many times have you said something that hurt one of your employees, co-workers or a family member without even knowing it? Maybe it was the heat of the moment and you were not thinking straight. Or, you made a statement with no intention at all of hurting anyone. However, to the other person, the words you said could have cut so deeply, they forever damaged your relationship and your creditability as a leader, or, in my case, as a parent.
Donna was taking our kids to a ballgame the other night, when we decided to keep Rachel, our youngest girl, home as she had struggled with a couple of her grades due to not doing homework. That meant Rachel had to stay with me for the night. While mom was walking out with Kaylee and Amy, Rachel pleaded her case to go. After not getting her way, she pushed on with tears in her eyes, and then she changed her tune in one last ditch effort. Although it already was hurting me to make her stay, what she said next would simply tear my heart out.
With crocodile tears dripping down her face, Rachel said, “Mom, you can’t leave me here or Dad will hurt me.” Then she cut deeper by repeating several times, “Mommy, Daddy will hurt me if you leave me alone with him.” Trusting that Rachel was in good hands, Donna left for the game without her.
Shortly after they left, Rachel continued crying and still refused to do her homework. At that point, what she had said to her mom became much more important to me than her homework.
I asked, “Rachel, why would you tell Mommy that I would hurt you if she left you alone with me? I’ve never hurt you before, and that really hurts Daddy when you say that.”
“But Daddy you have hurt me before,” she replied.
I asked, “How did I do that?”
“You called me bullheaded and lazy.”
I was in shock. I had to really think hard: Did I actually say that? Then, it took me back a couple years earlier when she absolutely refused to do her homework one night, and I told Donna that we had to make her do it as she is bullheaded and lazy. Much to my surprise, Rachel must’ve been listening to us, and it truly hurt her. I apologized to Rachel, explaining that I never really meant it like I said it, and that she was doing a good job at school now. Since then, my relationship with Rachel has grown. On top of that, she does her homework without me pushing her so hard. Thank goodness, I got the chance to heal the wound I had unknowingly inflicted on her.
This led me to wonder, how many times have I wounded my employees with words I quipped in the heat of the moment? Rachel taught me that the damage caused by misspoken words can be repaired by simply discussing the situation. So, is there a way I can repair any damage I may have inflicted upon others?
Everything a leader says means a great deal to his people. Your words could create forever loyal followers or damage your relationship forever. So the next time you go to a jobsite and see a laborer who you know is doing a fantastic job, will you make a sarcastic remark about any weakness you can find? Or, will you lay your hand on his shoulder, tell him you know he is doing a great job, and ask him what you can do to improve your operation?
Just remember, “Be careful of the words you say; keep them short and sweet. For you never know from day to day, which ones you will have to eat.”
About the Author
Damian Lang is a mason contractor in southeast Ohio and inventor of many labor saving masonry systems and products. Lang has served as the Marketing Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America. He is also author of the book Rewarding and Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry. To network with Damian on contractor tips or tips you have and would like published, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-749-3512.