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“Be impeccable with your words” is the title of the first chapter in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements published in the late 1990s’. As soon as you begin reading this book, you’ll quickly notice, what sounds like a simple instruction, is not necessarily easy to apply. Whether you agree with The Four Agreements or not, altogether, they provide an excellent opportunity to develop emotional intelligence at home and in the workplace. Each of the four principles holds a lot of wisdom and power in and of itself.

Take the above mentioned first principle: “Be impeccable with your words.” It probably resonates with you at different levels in your life and can be applied

  • towards yourself
  • towards others
  • and between team members.

Impeccable towards yourself

Being impeccable towards yourself may be the hardest part. To figure out what being impeccable means, let’s look at the definition. The dictionary defines being impeccable as being perfect, without faults, of behavior, performance, or appearance in accordance with the highest standards of propriety.

Being impeccable has nothing to do with perfectionism. Instead, it is about being honest, kind, and compassionate with ourselves, especially regarding the words we speak. Eradicating toxic self-talk is what this chapter asks us to do. I’m often struck with how hard people can be with themselves (myself included). And many of my clients find it so much easier to give praise and recognition to others than themselves. Many of the words they use for themselves, would come across as hurtful if they would hear them from others.

Eradicating toxic self-talk should be the first thing to work on when you try to improve your self-image as a leader. Your self-talk forms the foundation for how you see yourself and, consequently, how you perceive the world, and how you come across to others.

Try this: Have a journal or notebook handy. For a day, pay attention to the thoughts that come into your mind as often as you can. You may set a few reminders on your phone to remember to pay attention to your thoughts. Write down every judgemental or negative thought that you notice about yourself and your life. Then, filter out one that you’d like to work on and replace it with a more positive statement. Within the next few weeks, transform the negative into the positive statement whenever your mind brings it up. After a while, you may notice how much easier it gets and how the new belief slowly but progressively becomes anchored in your mind.

 

Impeccable towards others

To be impeccable towards others may be a little easier to do than the first point. Being impeccable towards others is about being honest and kind in our words, and not loading conversations with unnecessary meaning, judgments, and inappropriate comments.

Try this: In the next hour, after you’ve read this article, no matter if you speak to someone in your family, have a work meeting or communicate with someone on the phone or via email: bring more awareness to the words you speak or write and be impeccable with your words. You may be surprised about the difference in the impact your words may have.

 

Impeccability between team members

Now, imagine a team meeting where every member is impeccable with his/her words. Can you imagine how harmonious, respectful, and fruitful this conversation would be? Impeccable talks surely make way more effective teams!

Try this: While merely suggesting to the team to be “impeccable with their words” may not be the best idea, something you can work on is moderating conversations more effectively. You may, for example,  ban disrespectful comments and pointless remarks in meetings, as well as encourage team members to emphasize positive comments made by others.

 

To sum things up, working on the impeccability of your words may seem steep at first, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. Shining some light on your self-talk, how you speak to others, and listening carefully to how your team members talk will make some significant first steps. From there, it’s only twists and turns to get you well on your way to become an impeccable leader.

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