Career Advice: Know the power of your words

Our words will always do two things: build people up or tear them down.

I put much value in the written and spoken word. Nothing impresses me more than a well-written or well-spoken individual. You know exactly the type of person I'm talking about: they speak with ease and command respect with even their simplest notes.

Where does this eloquence come from?

Reading. People with the greatest command of words are generally those that read the most. Expose yourself to more words. Use a dictionary!

Writing. Put the pen to the paper and give it a shot. Rewrite and revise. Have somebody read your work.

Thinking before you speak. The best speakers have well-processed thoughts that are communicated with carefully chosen words.

How does this affect you?

Your words are your image. Know what you're saying and how you're saying it. That combination sets the tone for how people will view you.

Your words facilitate respect (or disrespect). Speak and write like a professional and you will be respected as a professional.

Your words affect others. Life is about the relationships you have. The words you use strengthen or weaken those bonds.

Gary Vail, former athletic director at Windsor Central School District, always told me, "Perfect practice makes perfect." This applies to communicating as well. Do it and do it well.

I value myself at a high level, so I want my words to make people think of me at that level.

You need to speak the part you want to play. If you want to be a great computer scientist, write and talk like one. If you want to be president of the United States, know how to inspire a nation.

When we think about presidents, what is it we remember? Their speeches.

Those words are chosen very carefully. I recommend reading Abraham Lincoln's speeches. He put an incredible amount of thought into his addresses. They are succinct and powerful.

Think about how often you verbally communicate during the day. What are your words saying about you?

ACTION PLAN: Read that e-mail over (at least once) before you send it out, especially if it's going to your boss.

In a world of ultra-fast communication, many people just write and fire away. That's a mistake. It only takes another minute or two to edit that e-mail before you hit send. All hastiness shows is a lack of respect.

KEY HINT: Start now with your written correspondences. Write in complete sentences, capitalize and punctuate. Show off your diction. Make this process automatic.

Pay attention to your words as they create the image you present to the world. Think before you speak and edit what you write.

Joseph Norman is co-founder and editor-in-chief of a weekly e-newsletter, The VIP Profiles. For more information, check out