“Have you got the right money?” versus, “Do you need any change?” A significant difference in language.
As I deliver meals to homes one day a week, some meals are paid for by cash, sometimes in a postal envelope, and, whilst many have the correct amount in them, some don’t, and those people require change on the spot.
On receiving one envelope recently, instead of saying, “Do you need any change?” I said, “Is the money right?” Immediately, I knew I’d phrased that in the wrong way.
Normally I ask if the person needs change, yet in making the mistake in how I phrased the question I saw the power in how a question is put — the power to show care in an interaction, versus the power to neglect the other person.
Through a slight lack of awareness, I made a chance at a good interaction less than it could have been.
Had I said, “Do you need any change?” the lady I served would have said, “No, the money is correct already.” I would have given her the benefit of the doubt, which fits the business model of the company I drive for. They’re more interested in keeping the customer happy than for the money to be exactly right.
Instead, when saying, “Is the money right?” I’ve communicated that I may not trust her. The lady took it well, but I knew straight away that I could have had a more blessed interaction had I been careful to serve her better.
Our choice of words has the power to communicate care or neglect. Communicating carefully communicates care.