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Words that Wound or WOW

Posted by Kristin Baird on March 29th, 2009 • 2 Comments »

There are a few statements that make me crazy. “It’s not my job” is one of them. A close second in my crazy-making lineup is, “I don’t have time.”

I am sitting in an airport right now watching a plane leave down the runway. A plane that I could be on. A plane that could put me home and in my own bed at 10:00 p.m. rather than 1:00 a.m. But I am not on that plane in spite of the fact that there were 10 empty seats on it, and I wanted to go standby and take one of those empty seats. Why am I not on that plane? Because Jody didn’t have time to help me. Jody was busy, and she told me so.

I can understand that in the service business, when we are pulled in many directions, the main focus is often on the customer that is standing right in front of you. I respect that. But I cannot excuse someone who doesn’t even try to assist a customer. How often does that happen in your organization? Do you have team members who tell customers they are too busy or that something is not their job? I hope not.

A fellow consultant and friend, Mary Malone, shared a great approach to training staff on how to screen their words. She talks about words that wound, words that work, and words that WOW. At the top of the list of her wounding words are, “It’s not my job,” and, “I don’t have time.” If I had the chance to coach Jody, the busy gate agent, I would help her understand the distinction between the words that wound, work, and wow. I would point out that, busy or not, she could finish her most immediate responsibilities and offer to assist me once she has boarded her other passengers. That would work or even wow me.

Ask your team members to identify common challenges and requests from patients and families. Can they distinguish words that wound, words that work , and words that wow? Practice makes perfect. Give them a chance to try out various scenarios. And once you have that down, give Jody a call. She could use some coaching.

Baird Consulting

2 Responses to “Words that Wound or WOW”

  1. […] my training sessions, I often talk about words that wound, words that work, and words that WOW. Hearing Elizabeth describe this situation made me realize that this nurse was probably trying to […]

  2. […] your staff find the words that work and WOW. Your patients will feel cared about and cared for, and your patient scores will show the […]


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