“We want to thank you for stepping up and taking the lead on this project.”
Is this a thankful comment or a derogatory comment? Most will hear this type of comment and think Mary was being praised for leading the project. While Mary’s boss probably is thankful for her accepting the responsibility of the project, it appears she wasn’t working as hard as she should have been before taking on the additional responsibility.
How do I derive that thought? Let’s look at where the term “stepping up” seems to have originated.
“Stepping up” is a sports term representing a baseball player stepping up to the plate to take an at bat. It’s called “stepping up” because the player is coming from the dugout or on deck circle. The player wasn’t yet at the plate so he “steps up” to get there.
This is the same in business. If an employee “steps up,” this insinuates he or she was not doing in the past what was beneficial. In most cases, the employee was doing what was expected but accepted additional or a change in responsibility. A step up was not taken. Instead, it was more of a lateral step to a different or additional responsibility.
Have you ever been thanked for stepping up your game? I have been. And, I took it as a shot in the back rather than a compliment. Yes, I’m different from many because I actually try to figure out what people are saying rather than taking everything at face value. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. That’s up to you.
The point of this article is not to not use the term “stepping up.” Instead, it is more about thinking about what you say or others say to or about you. Worry more about what you say than what others say. You can control what you say. You can’t control what others say.
Another word inappropriately used in many conversations is “actually.”
“I actually liked that book.”
“Actually, it was a very good experience.”
“I read what you wrote and I actually agree with your thoughts.”
“Actually” in these sentences is interpreted more as a surprise than differentiating between reality and fiction. Have you thought about the use of “actually” before? I heard it used by one person in four straight sentences earlier today. Wow….I was actually surprised.
Studies show the vast majority of communication is nonverbal. Therefore, the words we choose to say should be chosen intentionally. If we use words in inappropriate ways, the nonverbal cues will take on even more weight.
As more and more communication is in written or auditory form instead of in person, nonverbal cues cannot be used to interpret the meaning of those words. Therefore, we need to be intentional about the words we use to communicate. Will you join me in improving communication?