I was driving along, minding my own business when it happened. My dashboard lit up like a Las Vegas slot machine after hitting triple sevens. Next, it sounded as if I was driving on a gravel country road, only I was on a paved highway. I instinctively pulled over into a deserted parking lot. With my youngest daughter asleep in the back seat and my oldest daughter expecting me to pick her up at school, I needed to figure out a solution.
Having no mechanical competencies, I reached for my AAA card and dialed the 1-800 number. Based on customer service encounters with other companies, I anticipated what the representative might want from me: Account number, check. Home address, check. Would they require some other forms of ID? Would they demand my social security number, passport, copy of my birth certificate, or finger prints? I was moments away from finding out…“Thank you for calling AAA. This is Margie. Are you in a safe place?”
Wait. Did you get that? She asked, “Are you in a safe place?” Before she demanded I identify myself, she said, “Are you in a safe place?” That changed everything. I transformed from nervous and edgy to calm and compliant. It all happened because AAA decided to carefully chose their first words—words that demonstrate they care and they understand. Words that say, this is about you, not about us.
The power of your first words is often underestimated. A couple of years ago I received a call from my youngest daughter, Carley, after school, “Dad, will you consider something when I get home?” I replied, “Certainly Carley, what is it?” She explained, “Instead of immediately telling me to straighten up my room, complete my homework, and get prepared for dinner, can we talk about how my day went?” Wow. Carley was calling me out on my first words. She was asking me to treat her more like a human being and less like a human doing. What a novel idea.
How about you? Are these first phrases out of your mouth when you show up at work: “Where’s my report?” “Why is it late again?” How about your first words when starting a staff meeting: “Let’s look at where we came up short last month.” What about your first words when you return home after a long day at the office: “Who left this lying around?” Or, your first words when you sit down with your friend at coffee: “Can you believe what Tim did?”
The first words from that AAA representative impacted me for good. I am grateful they were thoughtful and intentional with their selection. It’s also good business. I remain a loyal customer having been a member for over five-years and now pay for both my daughters to have coverage. As an engaging leader, choose your first words wisely where ever you are; they make a difference and you can’t take them back.
Leave your comments: What better choice of first words can you make both professionally and personally?