As we finished dinner and continued sharing our very funny family stories, I heard Hayden laughingly say, “Screw you, Granny.” What? My husband and I shockingly turned to Hayden and asked, “What did you say?” As a 2nd grader, Hayden was learning all kinds of new vocabulary, and not all of the new words were taught by the teacher. His only experience with “Screw you” occurred on the playground when a classmate laughingly used the phrase during a fun-filled chase around the swingset. Using context clues (thanks to his teacher), Hayden thought the phrase was a positive response. And who can blame his interpretation? How many times has “Screw you” been used in a joking manner? But we all know the true meaning of the phrase, even if it is a less offensive version. And it certainly was NOT an appropriate response for Hayden to use with his grandmother! We all know the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” and although the saying is meant to encourage children to ignore name-calling, words are powerful and can help or hurt any communication experience. But this blog is not about the importance of professional word choice (that’s a blog for another day). Today I want to focus on how word choice can affect meaning. According to Power Thesaurus, there are over 2,000 synonyms for the word love, and each word produces a different meaning. I adore, cherish, and am devoted to my husband. But although I love Mexican food too, I certainly am not devoted to it! The great (or super confusing) English language provides different words that mean the same thing. Our job is to find the best word to communicate the desired meaning. Think about these words: problem, issue, and crisis. Which one is strongest? How do others react to each word? Most see the word “crisis” as the most powerful, action-producing word, but how many times do we use that word when the situation could be defined as more of an “issue” or “problem”? Words reflect a dictionary meaning (denotation) and an emotional meaning (connotation). etc Strategies believes that good communicators take the time and make the effort to find the word that strongly conveys both intended meanings. I promise that you don’t need to find a thesaurus app (although I personally use mine quite often), but you do need to be aware of the power of words and take that extra few seconds to purposely choose the most effective word. Fortunately for Hayden, his grandmother (a 1st grade teacher for 35 years) understood the wrong word choice and helped us explain to Hayden (using 2nd grade language) why “Screw you” was not appropriate. And although he learned his lesson those many years ago, at 21 years old, I’m pretty sure that today Hayden now uses the phrase (or the even stronger version) “appropriately” ...