When embarking on the design thinking process in solving problems, the use of words is important. Because how we choose our words influences our perspectives and affects the affirmations from our collaborators. Language is a powerful tool, the language we use can shape our perceptions and attitudes towards a problem and influence the solutions we come up with.
An interesting illustration from the book The Achievement Habit is substituting the word "but" with "and" when confronting presumably conflicting priorities. When we say "I want to go to the theater but I have to work" we have already framed our attitude that the two activities are in conflict, setting a mental premise of impossibilties. Now according to the writer Bernard Roth, if we were rephrase the sentence to "I want to go to the theatre and I have to work", we have reframe our desires into a challenge that we can seek to overcome. The choice of word set us to finding time to do both activities!
If words can influence our mindset, it is needless to say that our words will also affect the mindset of our collaborators. It is not only important to be mindful of how we speak to our collaborators not only for the sake of promoting positive and effective collaboration, but also from a psychological perspective. When people are afraid of being judged or criticized, it can create a negative environment that stifles creativity and collaboration.
From the same book The Achievement Habit, Bernard Roth cautioned readers in using the word "why" in interpersonal conversations. Instead start with a direct expression of your thought or feelings that are related to an incident you wish to discuss. According to the writer the word "why" may carry an implication of fault finding. For example, if we are dissastified with our collaborator's effort in a project, mentioned it upfront. Say " I wish that you can dedicate more hours in following up the process" and avoid "Why did you not allocate more time in following up on the process?". The latter may trigger your collaborator to take on a defensive stance.
If we use language that is dismissive or critical of our collaborators' ideas, it can make them feel like their contributions are not valued or respected. This can lead to a lack of engagement and participation, and can ultimately undermine the effectiveness of the design thinking process.