Julie Thorson

January is the month for diets. I must admit I’m even participating in a “diet” this month, but that’s another story. I’ve been listening to friends talking about how many points they have for the day or their calorie counts. They restrict their calories and carefully consider what foods are “worth it.”

It got me to thinking about a word diet. Hang with me for a minute or two. What if every day we were only allotted so many words to maintain a healthy communication style? How would we use those words? Would our word diet change at work? During meetings? With friends? Do we consider the words we use? And are they all worth it?

Effective communication is a tricky little dish. Too many words and the course goes bad; not enough, and the dish is missing something. Do we really understand the right ingredients? Some people insert unnecessary words out of habit. It’s that go-to-Dorito after 8:00 at night. Not needed! It’s such a hard habit to break, but you always feel better when you feel truly understood.

Or do the little extras help define our communication style? Do words we use for emphasis help us make our point? Does the extra dollop of sour cream really make the taco? Maybe I’m just hungry, but the emphasis words and sour cream do help.

Maybe just like a good diet, really thinking and considering the words we use is enough. The idea of a word restriction, however, is an interesting thought. Do we think enough about the words we use? Are they worth it? Have we been invited to share our opinion? Or are we giving it without an invitation? Would it be better understood if invited? Do you have the patience to wait in silence until you are asked?

Do we use our words to spread negativity? Are we talking and participating when we should just walk away? This is like the juicy, greasy, double decker hamburger that we know is terrible for us, but we keep on eating! Gossip, cattiness, negativity, complaining — all most likely unhealthy words. Have we fed into that greasy demon too often? If so, put yourself on a word diet, for sure!

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and an actual word diet scares me because I would surely break it. I love to talk. I enjoy making my point with stories. I love to laugh and to make others laugh. I hope I communicate effectively, but sometimes I should push the plate away and simply stop talking.

Diet or no diet, the leadership lesson for the day: Think before you speak. Didn’t we learn that in kindergarten? Why can’t we all figure it out?

Julie Thorson’s “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. Most recently, she was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy.