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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Words to Wisdom Ratio



Words to Wisdom ratio: A simple but very difficult concept to master - and one that can hold the key to tremendous success.  


Do I have your attention?


Dr. Kristin Ferguson, an author and recipient of the Thinkers50 Distinguished Award for Leadership, coined the phrase, “words to wisdom ratio.” It refers to both the confidence and awareness to not feel that you need to dominate the conversation, and the ability to pick your words with precision, to deliver a concise yet powerful message.


Low-ratio people (those who monopolize the discussion but don't add substantive value) are actually the ones who are quite insecure. They are more focused on themselves than hearing the wisdom of others.

Are you guilty of talking too much?


My guess is that we all tend to speak more than needed, and certainly more than we think. If you are ready to face the brutal reality, then check this out: I was recently introduced to an AI meeting notetaker, Avoma. Not only does Avoma capture and transcribe the meeting, but it also provides analytics like… how much you spoke! This may be a rude awakening, but it also builds awareness as to how you might improve your leadership.


Courageous leadership is looking in the mirror and acknowledging the blindspots.


Great leaders listen intently and craft their words with precision and depth. 


Each sentence has unique value and seeks to expand the discussion and insight of others.

How to improve your words-to-wisdom ratio:


  1. W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) This acronym encourages us to reflect upon your motivation to speak and what we are about to say. Here is a great outline to consider.( Is it relevant, useful, unique, and concise?)

  2. Ask another question. Learn about Michael Bungay Stanier’s infamous A.W.E. tip from the book, The Coaching Habit. “And what else…” can help with drawing out the next layer of thinking from your colleagues.

  3. Become comfortable with silence. I am amazed by how many times another person will expand on an idea, or add more depth, if I stay silent for just five more seconds.

If you can challenge yourself to think of conversations as games, then your job is to:

  • Speak with intentionality, clarity, and purpose - keep it short and sweet.

  • Lean on your mutual trust, drawing out more ideas from your partner by allowing for silence.

  • Ask one more question that goes deep not wide (e.g., “That is fascinating, can you tell me more?” or “How was that experience for you?” or even, “Are there any concerns that you may have around this idea?”).

  • Keep questions focused on them rather than shifting to yourself (no, “I” statements).


Finally, a word to stay away from would be, “Why.” While your intent may be pure, “Why” questions are often perceived as aggressive or accusatory, which may lead to the other person feeling on the defensive.


“Why did you not hire that person?”

vs.

“Can you tell me more about what your concerns were with regards to hiring John?”


Remember, your words are powerful and motivating to others. Use them wisely as you lead with intentionality and inspiration.


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