Anthony Scaramucci: Choosing the Right Words Can Turn Failure into Success

The age of email has pushed us to confront the importance of how things are phrased. How often have you had to wipe out a sentence and re-write it to convey the tone you really intended? As much as you may loathe (or like) exclamation marks and smiley faces, there are times when these hieroglyphs are just plain necessary to avoid all-out communication mayhem.

The care we take in writing should also be applied to our verbal interactions, where offense can so easily be caused on the conversational battle grounds that are race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomics. That consideration is equally important in the professional world, says financier and author Anthony Scaramucci.

Words really do matter, he says, because they reveal our intentions. In business, the issue may not even be as blatant as those big red flags of offense like race and gender, but can be as small as the difference between ‘I’ and ‘we’. As the founder and co-managing partner of an investment firm, Scaramucci knows if he doesn’t talk and think about the company as a team, he’s going to lose people, fast.

Anyone can be part of a team, but to be part of a successful, cohesive one requires forgoing your ego for the advancement of the unit as a whole. Graceful subordination to a larger goal is the objective, and choosing your language carefully is the key.

Anthony Scaramucci's most recent book is Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure Into Success.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Anthony Scaramucci: I find that words really do matter. Particularly in our society today where we're getting a lot of our information electronically transferred I think words do matter. And I also think that for whatever reason, due to political correctness there's a heightened sensitivity to words. You say something oh you're a racist. You reference that person or if you reference that person improperly or there's different ways to describe people, and please I'm probably going to be offensive now but I'm going to say it anyway, when I was a kid you would say the word oriental. If you said the word oriental today you would be excoriated, it's Asian American. It was, forgive me nigro when I was a kid, now it's African American. I actually think the words do matter because at the end of the day you want to be respectful to other people, and again, I hope I didn't offend anybody even by bringing those up on - I'm just bringing up the illustration the evolution of the words.

So for me even when you're managing a company you have to speak in the right way because if I say me and my and I I'm going to lose people around me. Our company is a pronoun usage place of we and our and team and a commitment to each other. Now, this is like a really silly cliché but you should really think about it if you're running a company when the word team is in your head it's together everyone achieves more. That was from my high school coach. He had another great aphorism, help the other guy. Or in the case of help the other girl for gal. His point was don't focus on yourself with but subordinate yourself. I watched Derek Jeter, and I'm going to dish ARod for a second here because he does deserve to be dished a little, I watched Derek Jeter run from the short stop position into the bleachers and break his cheek to catch a foul ball during a Red Sox Yankee game while the third baseman Alex Rodriguez is meandering. There's a difference in the two personalities. The one guy is all about the team, could care less about his own statistics, could care less about if he's going to get 3000 hits or not 3000 hits, he wants to win the World Series. The other guy is sitting there looking at his statistics all day. So one is very insular focused and me and I focused and the other one is we. And I'm telling you right now if you're out there listening to this thing you're going to go away farther in your life if you can subordinate yourself to that we concept.

So yes I'm a very big believer that you have to use the right words. By the way, I don't always use the right words. I'm from an Italian American family; we yell and scream at each other on Sundays; I got most of my media training passing plates of spaghetti as a kid. And I also grew up in an ethnic environment so there were Irish and Jews and Italians and Welsh and so we were fighting and sparring with each other. And so I'm very, very far from perfect but I think you can really see people's intentions by the way they talk to other people and their level of civility.

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Big Think Edge helps organizations get smarter, faster by catalyzing conversation around the topics most critical to 21st century business success. Led by the world’s foremost experts, our dynamic learning programs are short-form, mobile, and immediately actionable.