Choosing Words that Encourage Partnerships

In a previous post, I wrote about how words carry tone and nuance. In that post, The Power of Words: Rescuing a Bailout, I was talking about the $70 billion financial package that had morphed from bailout to rescue in an attempt to gin up Congressional and public support.

But sometimes, it’s not the masses you are trying to influence with the right words. You may be trying to impact a local issue, or maybe just one person—your boss, your spouse, a colleague or donor.

I was again reminded of the power of words while working on a project for the Land Trust Alliance. We are helping to repurpose  Land Trust Alliance’s extensive collection of course workbooks for online learners. The Alliance consists of more than 1100 local land trusts working with landowners to preserve land through conservation easements.

The Alliance recognizes the crucial role that communication plays in developing partnerships with landowners and in monitoring and enforcing existing conservation easements. To facilitate communication, Leslie Ratley-Beach, the Alliance’s Conservation Defense Director has put together a list of words that solve problems (which she’s called Partnership/Problem-Solving Messages) versus words that are adversarial (which she’s called Policing/Enforcement Messages).

This list is a great example of the power of the right word—and is helpful to anyone whose  job involves negotiation, regulation, or legal issues.


Words that Solve Problems 
Adversarial Words
Annual visit
Monitoring
Visit
Inspection
Follow-up
Enforcement
Resolution
Compliance
Checking
Policing
Conversation
Negotiation
Creative problem-solving
Litigation
Upholding the conservation easement  
Conformance
Concerns
Violations
Questions
Concerns
Deter
Prevent
Identify
Detect
Scheduled
Assigned
Possible
Suspected


[Source: Conservation Easement Stewardship, Land Trust Alliance, 2008]

Do you have a similar list of problem-solving or adversarial words in your organization? Maybe the Land Trust Alliance’s list will inspire you to create one. If so, I’d love to see it!

— Marilynne Rudick (guest blogger)

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