"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
I once spoke with Eric Hoffberg—business and life coach—about his philosophy of intentionally coloring speech with nuance. He explained that providing detailed information, creating context, and explicitly relaying the subtler points in conversation make for a richer dialogue and deeper communication.
Wiktionary defines something nuanced as “possessed of multiple layers of detail, pattern, or meaning.” While I agree wholeheartedly with Eric’s attitude, I would suggest that words are only the start to living more intentionally and with nuance. Words are powerful, but even more critical are the actions that ultimately result from thought and speech.
Life Without Nuance
In this fast-paced world, we dart back and forth between meetings, work, family life, social activities, and more, struggling to do each thing as well as we can with limited time and resources.
This attempt to accomplish so much can result in our operating at a surface level, in catch phrases, and by making assumptions. We can fall too easily into the trap of doing things because it is what we believe we are supposed to do or because it is the default option when we lack ideas for what else to do. Broad generalizations generally befall our conversations, relationships are sustained by shallow, fleeting exchanges, and life then becomes a bit, well, generic.
We hear a lot about the importance of being intentional, and that we should strive to go against the grain to live big lives and achieve revolutionary things. To be the change we wish to see in the world, we need not only to be intentional about doing the right things, even if they are uncommon, but also to reflect about just why and how we are doing what we are doing -- before taking nuanced action.
The challenge is locating, in daily life, the smaller ways that allow us easy opportunities to practice this innovative thinking and thoughtful action.
To get us moving, I propose two simple and fun ways to incorporate nuance into your daily life via words and action.
[1.] Thank You Notes
Much is made of the fact that it is rare to receive handwritten letters or notes these days. People particularly lament the long-lost art of sending handwritten thank you cards to express gratitude for the contribution of time, talent, or gifts.
Thus, I’m always pleased (and a little surprised) to receive such a card via USPS that acknowledges appreciation for my time speaking at an event or volunteering for a cause.
However, I’m often disappointed to find the messages generic -- and thus somewhat unconvincing. As such, I recommend trying to detail, in thank you notes, things like the following: the specific contribution of the recipient; context and feedback as to why it was so useful to the program or the people in attendance; and an indication of hope that the relationship will continue.
Note the differences between the following messages (both of which can fit on the same size thank-you card):
“Thank you for speaking to our program participants during our leadership panel last week. We are grateful for your time and your support of our program. You helped to make our day superb! Please know that we appreciate all you have done for us and our organization. Sincerely, [Thanker]”
“Thank you for sharing the story of your pathway to your leadership position during Monday’s panel. Detailing how you overcame certain challenges was immensely helpful to our emerging leaders, who are facing these very issues themselves. Many expressed that they were inspired by your achievements and consider you to be a role model. You’ve helped us to offer quality programming to our membership, and we hope to work with you again soon! With respect and admiration, [Thanker]”
Gift registries take the guess work out of what a groom or expecting mother may find useful in his or her next steps in life. However, they also limit the gift giver’s imagination and occasion to locate a present that is meaningful to both the recipient and giver. After you find the listed item, procure some appropriate wrapping paper or a gift bag, and a suitably themed card, your task is all but accomplished.
Rather than be resigned to the idea that the plan is entirely laid out, I suggest that you be creative in considering the ways in which you can further support this person.
Did they ask for a water purifying pitcher? You know they’ll likely need some replacement filters in the coming months. Go ahead and add them. Perhaps bakeware is on their wish list. Picking up an additional cake, brownie, or scone mix attaches more thought and fun for both the gift giver and the recipient.
These are two easy ideas to get you started, but daily options for taking nuanced action and demonstrating thoughtful intention abound.
Are there certain things you want to attempt with more detail, thought, or creativity? What have been your best strategies or ideas?
Please share additional ideas to inspire others in the comments below!