Vail Valley: Words have the power to help or harm
August 20, 2010
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it to our kids or others kids. Too bad it’s not accurate – words hold immense power and have the power to influence both consciously and unconsciously.
Browse through the local newspapers, watch meetings on TV5 or Channel 18 or attend a local meeting. Local industry lingo and buzzwords, while unintentional, can have a powerful negative effect. Many words, terms and buzzwords are used that are demeaning at best and harmful at worst – even while nothing malicious is intended. While buzzwords and industry jargon are used by people to make communication more efficient, they also can be confusing, annoying or seem exclusionary to individuals outside that organization or field.
As a business community increasingly dependent upon tourism for our economic growth, I’d like to suggest that we make a conscious decision to remove certain buzzwords from our vocabularies:
• “Heads in beds.” Let’s stop saying this and instead say “destination guests” or “overnight guests” or “visitors” – anything that isn’t so (unintentionally) negative. Our guests are more than “heads in beds,” they are our customers, our clients, our friends and to many people, our livelihood. Let’s treat them as such in our local communications by no longer using the technically accurate yet vaguely demeaning term “heads in beds.”
• “Up Valley” and “Down Valley.” It’s time to remove these geographic descriptions. While technically accurate when describing our geography, they are meaningless to our destination guests and signify an unnecessary fracture in our community.
We are not the Jets and the Sharks, we are one destination – from Gypsum to Vail and all points in between. It’s time to act like it. Start by saying “Eagle County” or “Vail Valley” when discussing our region and avoid the “up valley/down valley” discussion.
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Some words just tend to seep into our vocabulary and our local vernacular. This isn’t unique to the Vail Valley, but as a community it should be a no-brainer for us to think outside the box to create traction and leverage our mindset in order to create a win-win, sustainable, customer oriented process to avoid using these non-customer friendly words.
We could easily integrate new terminology to develop stronger customer relationship management skills so we don’t have to herd cats in the new paradigm; after all, nothing is etched in stone and a change in the words we use to describe guests and ourselves is low hanging fruit.
The lesson to be learned is that words do have the power to hurt (or at least to be annoying). Here in the Vail Valley, we need to recognize the power that words have. And we need to make a conscious decision to remove certain words from the local vernacular. Imagine what a difference it could make to our heads in beds who visit up valley by flying into our down valley airport to instead be welcomed as a destination visitor to the Vail Valley.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership.