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Precision of words and listening skills are important tools for problem solving

“If it is to be it is up to me.” Floyd Wickman

For your amusement today I thought we might consider precision of language and its importance – a subject even I have struggled with, much to the frustration of some of my mentors.

Believe it or not, my maternal grandmother’s first job as a young woman was as an instructor of elocution and her very first pupil was the aspiring actor Lorne Greene who later starred on the television show Bonanza.

When I was a small child she did her best to impress upon me the importance of proper word selection and diction, but I wasn’t having it.

Just as all children prefer to slouch and scuff their feet, I really wasn’t convinced that it made any difference whatsoever whether I greeted people with a hi, hello, good morning or good day. I mean, I acknowledged that such terms existed but what possible difference could it make?

After all, how could walking around with a book on my head greeting people with a proper handshake and a “how do you do?” at the age of six be in any way connected to the sort of person that I would become?

Eventually she gave up and I didn’t give the matter another thought until after I completed university and suddenly found myself employed by a company where the majority of the people spoke English as a second (or possibly even third) language.

Suddenly clarity of diction, precision of words and listening skills were immensely important.

Imagine trying to finalise the terms of a contract between a buyer from India sitting in one room, a seller from China sitting in another room and a Hungarian office manager running back and forth between the two serving as intermediary and you begin to get the picture.

Yikes! I get stressed just thinking about it.

And then, in the midst of all of this chaos, I encountered a business coach named Floyd Wickman whose mastery of communication and understanding of the inner workings of the universe was so advanced that he managed to sum up the answer to any problem or situation that an individual can ever encounter with just ten little words: if it is to be it is up to me.

This one precise simple statement has so many valid applications and interpretations that I am still finding new ones to this today.

Granted, you can attempt to be clever and wiggle around it grammatically by claiming that it can’t be true – because you can’t fly or stop global warming, for example – but in actuality you are just playing with words by trying to misapply an individual truism to a global situation.

You can try the no man is an island approach, and claim that there are many situations that cannot be solved unless many people work together but, although this initially seems correct, this is just another linguistic game. The truth is that these sorts of problems are only solved when each individual does their part.

You can even try citing an example of a personal situation that did not work out despite the fact that you did everything that you “could”. While I am sure that you did, my response would be, “But did you do what was actually required to resolve the problem?” (Obviously not because if you had the problem would have been solved, making the statement true.)

So what’s the moral of this story?

Well, it’s not really a moral, it’s more of a question. If the statement “if it is to be it is up to me” is in fact a truism, how does that alter your approach to problem solving?

Robin Trimingham is the chief operating officer of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a virtual presenter, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/olderhoodgroup1/ or robin@olderhood.com

At 6, Robin Trimingham wondered how walking around with a book on her head and greeting people with a proper handshake would determine the sort of person she would become

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Published January 19, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 18, 2021 at 1:36 pm)

Precision of words and listening skills are important tools for problem solving

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