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A simple vocabulary change that led to amazing outcomes

A little heads up in case you don’t know: I’m the host of a long form Tamil podcast called Vaanga Pazhagalaam with Techies. I interview various techies to learn from their journey, stories and experiences. At this time of writing, I’ve recorded around 10 interviews for the podcast.

In this blog, I’ll share my personal experience of how a simple change of vocabulary allowed me to shift my mindset and transformed the whole experience of hosting my podcast.

Last year around October, when I was still ideating for my podcast. I met with my mentor Abhi and he asked me to think profoundly about the qualification criteria of my interviewees. He further told me that it’ll help me remind myself of the kind of people I want to have on the podcast.

Very soon, I began to draft the qualification criteria in a document titled "Qualification of guests". In my following meeting with Abhi to discuss the document, my major takeaway was to consider using the word collaborator rather than guest.

It immediately made sense to address people I interview as podcast collaborators rather than as my guests. Because, in essence, I want to co-create the podcast in collaboration with my interviewees. The purpose of each collaboration would be to give my target audience the most value in each episode. I also would like to stay in touch with my interviewees for a long time.

I changed the vocabulary in all my internal documents that I wrote when ideating for the podcast. This allowed me to reinforce the fact that I'm always in collaboration with other people. I believe I became more open-minded this way. In my mind, it has taught me to be inclusive to the thoughts of my collaborators. It has allowed me to be vulnerable to ask for clarifications and seek genuine feedback from them.

The reason that this vocabulary change is working is because collaboration is a strong word. A stronger word than guest. In the history of human evolution, it might be one of the reasons to achieve significant milestones. We feel happy when we interact with like-minded people and feel respected when invited to co-create something new. A collaboration is exactly that.

Whenever someone has agreed to come on my podcast, I make it a point to communicate that they are my “collaborators” and not “guests”. I see it as a first step to build a strong relationship. My beliefs about interviewees being collaborators get reciprocated back by them. It's almost very apparent immediately in the way that they work with me.The overall feeling and sense of collaboration that they had was astounding to see.

I'll give you a small example from one of my collaborators, Hanurag, from Pondicherry. He is working as a senior UAV engineer working in a startup called YouCanFly. So, a couple of days before our interview together, he got very sick and couldn't speak due to a sore throat. We recorded the interview around late evening. During the day, he had put extra effort to make a trip to hospital to receive injections to make sure he's able to speak.

The expectation behind communicating my beliefs is to create a good environment with a sense of collaboration. There's a fair chance for the good environment to have influenced him to absolutely make sure he's able to speak. Thinking back about it now, I should've rescheduled the interview some other day proactively to make sure he's not troubling himself.

In all my interactions with my collaborators so far, because of the environment that we created, I was able to notice many such obvious and subtle actions. A few of them had to sacrifice an hour of sleep. A few of them had to carve out time on the weekend. I could go on and on about these little stories of each collaborator. I see this as a very simple but an astonishing example. Changing our vocabulary to be mindful can contribute a lot in our everyday life.

It’s amazing to see how our choice of words reflect at a deeper level in our everyday interactions. I’m fortunate to have learnt about it in practice with work, thanks to Abhi. I’m now looking forward to evaluating my choice of words and tweaking them to be mindful along with setting my mindset. I believe it has the potential to make a significant change in our lives. What do you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments :)