Avoid controlling language

In this penultimate post in a 15 part series on Self Determination Theory and how you can implement it into you readership behaviours, I turn to the skill of avoiding controlling language.


What's in a word? Quite a lot it would seem. You are almost certainly aware of how the tone of voice can twist the meaning of a simple sentence (think about some saying, "nice haircut" in a regular and then sarcastic tone), but the very words we use impact the listener too.


Self Determination Theory (SDT) posits that humans seek their own motivation and that environmental triggers can help them fulfill that need - or not. For the need for autonomy (the ability to have and make choices freely) being told what to do can have a subtle effect on the individual and their motivation


So the very words we use to communicate can impact an employee's motivation. (At this point I just had a flashback to my Mum saying, "it wasn't what you said, it was the way you said it!")


Here is a simple experiment, listen out for several key words over the next few days how often do you hear "controlling language" being used? Listen for words like:

"should'

"ought"

"have to"

"must" and

"need to"


What to do instead? The goal is to allow the employee to feel a greater sense of autonomy.. To that I go to what I often do to help build coaching capabilities in managers and leaders. I spend a great deal of time on helping them learn the key skill of "ask don't tell" - the art of asking questions and listening to the answers to allow employees to come to their own conclusion. Telling is the antithesis of that practice, using phrases like, "should", "must" and "have to"- is telling...Try it for a week and see how you get on.

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