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Three Little Words

At Hughes Marino, one of our core values is to deliver excellence in everything we do. It’s not just a nice saying; it’s something that every member of our team strives to do every day. Helping us along the way is one of our in-house secrets to success, our VP of Leadership Development, John Jarvis. John is always ready with words of wisdom, a pat on the back, or the odd Hot Wheels analogy to carry us through. His leadership and motivation make all of us a little better, which is why we wanted to share some of it with you. In this internal Hughes Marino white paper, John challenges us to think about the power of words, and how choosing our words thoughtfully and carefully can completely change our impact and our results. Our team found it inspiring, and we hope you will too.

Three Little Words

With apologies to Bob Marley

John Jarvis
Hughes Marino VP of Leadership Development John Jarvis

Words have power. Words allow us to interact, to communicate our ideas, to share our passions. What’s more, with the words that we choose we actually create our reality. Until the moment we speak we are blank slates, pure potential, and loaded with the possibility of things to come. When we speak we begin to realize that potential, and our dialogue takes us in the direction we choose.

What words are you going to choose? Does it matter? An executive coach once challenged me to be impeccable with my word, then held me accountable to that lofty standard. Thanks for that, Malcolm Avner, as it opened my eyes to the power of words. Yes, every word matters. Nasty words, angry words bring us all down a notch. While the right words elevate our game, with the power to engage and inspire. I now carry around high-quality words, like diamonds in a secret pouch, sharing them from time to time when the moment feels right. They are sometimes received as valuable gems, and they sometimes fall to the ground unnoticed. Perhaps it wasn’t a diamond after all. Either way, it helps me pay attention to the words that I choose.

“Should”, “but” and “sorry” are three little words I am working out of my vocabulary. They do not belong in my diamond pouch.

“Should” is a fascinating word. What does it mean? Is there something you “should” be doing right now? According to whom? The word is pregnant with meaning, like a Trojan horse, loaded with expectations, and judgment. How often does the voice in your head use that word? Author and coach Mike Robbins shared this wisdom in a blog post, and I totally agree. Now when I hear the word “should” alarm bells go off, and I ask myself that key question- “according to whom?” I then silently replace the word “should” with the word “could” and I explore the new meaning of that sentence. What I generally find is that the same sentence takes on power and significance without reducing or altering the original intention. “Could” reminds us of two important things; “could” reminds us of our potential, in that we “could” truly accomplish just about anything we set our minds to, and “could” also reminds us that it is fundamentally our choice, it is within our power of control, we “could” do a thing, or not. Try it. It works.

“But” is an insidious word. How many times have you heard eloquent speakers make an interesting point, followed by “but”. They use it as a conjunction, to break their sentence into two distinct segments, to catch and re-focus your attention on what comes next, and it typically undermines and negates the key point that they just delivered! It is a way of saying stop, my previous statement was merely a preamble, and what comes next is the real point I am trying to make. Don’t do that to me, leading me to the edge and then slapping me in the face and starting over with your main idea. An interesting alternative- replace “but” with “and” to see the power of your sentence grow. It may sound awkward at first, and it will become more natural as you practice it over time.

“Sorry” is a sorry little word. Credit again to Malcom Avner for pointing this out. “Sorry” is another word that is loaded with meaning, almost all of it negative. The only thing worse than “sorry” is “I’m sorry,” understood at a subconscious level to mean “I am pitiful” or “I am wretched, deplorable and sad.” One could argue that saying you’re “sorry” may be just a heartfelt apology, expressing sympathy and condolences, and I think this is generally true. And every word we use carries undertones and overtones in the music of our language. “Sorry” works so well as an apology because a dark part of us actually likes to see others humble themselves before us in an abject manner, to be servile, and to grovel and beg for forgiveness. We feel elevated in contrast. These feelings must be rooted in our animal genetics, based on survival in a zero-sum game, where I win and you lose, or vice versa. I choose not to create that reality; I am not pitiful, deplorable nor wretched, and neither are you. I do make mistakes, and for these mistakes I always apologize, sincerely. And I’m not sorry.

Words have power, and limitless value. Cherish them, polish them, enjoy them, and share them around. Through the words that we choose we create our reality. Words have the power to change the world. Just ask Bob Marley.

John Jarvis is a senior vice president of Hughes Marino, an award-winning California commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Contact John at 1-844-NO-CONFLICT or john@hughesmarino.com to learn more.



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