A Short Word

As a guy who writes a lot I’m probably stating the obvious, but I love words. I guard the sanctity of words such that when someone uses a “word” that doesn’t exist I might call them on it. Something like “irregardless” or “priorize”. Seriously how do we do this to the language? Words are meant to express ideas in a certain way, and when they become misshapen like these examples our attention can be drawn away from the intended meaning towards the defect hanging in the air in front of us.

One safe way to manage this is to stick with short words. Four letter words are short. Mostly one syllable. One of my favorites is …


It’s a funny word that it’s hard to figure out where it came from. I’m sure I could research the etymology of it and come up with a really solid explanation of why it is apt, but I would rather go with the golfers’ explanation that all the other four letter words were taken.

So perhaps we should get serious about even shorter words?

How about the words or and and?

Door #1 OR Door #2
Door #1 OR Door #2

Two letters …. O-R.  But powerful!! By itself this little word implies choice!  Would you like “this” or “that”?  We can either do “this” or we can do “that”.   It can be a word that helps us build a list of options, following each new idea with the query “or?” I like the concept of choice. The trick about choice is to make sure we are conscious that we are making one.

An example from the work world might be someone making a phone call home at the end of the day to their spouse saying “Sorry but I won’t be home for dinner.  I have to work”. Our little friend or didn’t show up in that sentence. It may have been involved in the thought process, but it is also possible that the thought “Wow I have a lot of work to do.  Should I stay here and do it or should I go home?” never came up.

By saying “I have to” I am trying to deny responsibility.  But I am still choosing to work.  There may be consequences to not working, but I’m choosing nonetheless.  By bringing our little friend or into the process, we make this a conscious choice.  I am aware of the consequences, and as a result I choose what is best in the circumstances.

So let’s talk about or‘s three letter companion … A-N-D.  Now this word has some magic in it! How would life be if we substituted and for or in our examples above.  How would you respond differently to the questions: “Would you like “this” and “that”?  We can do “this” and then we can do “that”.  What happens when we use “and?” after each entry on the list building exercise?

I’ll answer that … it changes from a list of options (choose one) to a list of possibilities (choose them all!!!!). Shifting from options to possibilities is such a gift … now we aren’t limited by probability or fear of failure. We’re looking at just how much/how many things we can accomplish.

Art AND Edible
Art AND Edible

There is one other aspect of this that I find particularly interesting from a leadership perspective. It applies in the way we have (or choose not to have) important conversations.  We find ourselves making a choice between kindness or candor. Honesty or respectfulness. Safety or results. “How can I possibly choose between telling the truth or keeping a friend?” What a powerful transformation to say “I want to choose complete honesty and complete respectfulness!” and then set out and do it!

If we set out to handle all important conversations with an and philosophy we will show the type of leadership that inspires others.  If we understand the skills required to have these conversations fully enough, we can also coach our team members in how to raise their level of interactions as well.

Back to our example where someone is choosing between staying at work or going home to spend time with their family.  While consciously choosing is a much better alternative than feeling forced, how does our perspective change if we ask ourselves “how can I do this work and spend time with my family?” What are the possibilities?  Can you see how many solutions might be there with this simple reframing?  As leaders do we help our team do this?

Let’s go discuss this on the golf course!

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

10 thoughts on “A Short Word

  1. A very thought provoking post Ian! I know I avoid the words or and and when I’ve already made up my mind and I am purposely not leaving room for another option.

    And totally off subject, here are 10 2-letter words with a powerful message! If it is to be, it is up to me.

  2. Brilliant post. I was always told to replace ‘but’ with ‘and’. ‘But’ negates the previous clause and takes away your power; whereas ‘and’ says the same thing but (sorry and) better.

  3. Great post Ian! Words do not need to be long to be powerful, I agree with your post completely (surprised). Although we go through life at times thinking we “don’t have a choice” but I agree we do. Two other powerful words I’ve been thinking on today “Let Go” perhaps you can write about that some day 🙂

    You end by asking as leaders to we help our team understand this concept teach / guide to reframing their thoughts, my answer is a definite yes. That is our job as leaders to teach / guide / assist the team, build their tool box of knowledge to assist them in being the best they can be at their job and creating a good balance with life and work 🙂

    Happy Family Day

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