At one annual meeting for vendors, a company announcedthat they were moving in a new direction and "partnering" with their vendors. All of this would create more "synergy" and be beneficial to the company, the vendors and ultimately the customers. Both of the words "partnering" and "synergy" were used repeatedly throughout the multi-day event.
Within two months vendors stared complaining amongstthemselves. Apparently "partnership" meant doing it theway the company dictated. They had zero interest in any input from vendors. "Synergy" meant nothing. The vendors concluded that someone at the company had attended too many motivational seminars.
Choosing the right word is more important than you may think. It seems like a simple task, however, it usuallyrequires thought, testing and searching for alternatives.
There are two solid ways to check before ever using a word. The first is the most obvious, but frequentlyoverlooked - the dictionary. Partnership is defined as "arelationship usually involving close cooperation between parties having specific and joint rights and responsibilities." Synergy is defined as "conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects."
The second way is to test it. Ask a cross-section of 20 people what they think of when they hear the words"partnership" and "synergy." While it may not be an exactmatch of the dictionary, it will give you a pretty good idea of what people will be thinking when they hear a word used or see it in print.
Yes, it does, and here is why. By overusing these two words and then failing miserably to come even close towhat people were thinking, this company eroded trust and damaged its reputation. As you can imagine, from that point forward any further communication from thecompany to vendors was treated with skepticism and the foundation for many jokes.
Do you need to spend huge amounts of time checking your vocabulary? No. Here are a few situations one should pay closer attention to word choice. If youreplanning to use a particular word repeatedly, it might be a good idea to check the actual meaning and the perception. If youre implementing changes of growing the organization, word choice should be and important consideration. If you need to be tactful in a difficult conversation or e-mail, word choice can make a huge difference.
A good guideline to use is the more important the communication the more time should be invested inchoosing the right word. One final tip: a good thesaurus can be invaluable in helping you find the right word.