How to Help Someone Find Their WORD
By Chris Pan, MyIntent Founder
To really be able to help someone else, first take care of yourself and be in a positive emotional state. You want to give the other person your full undivided attention and not be distracted. What they have to say matters. And you need to be able to fully process what they are communicating so you can guide them.
Second, you want to make the other person feel comfortable to be able to open up to you. If they are going to be vulnerable, you need them to feel accepted, and not judged for what they might want to work on. You’ll be amazed at how grateful some people are just because you are actively listening to them, as many people haven't received a chance to share from their heart in a while.
Lastly, have confidence they will find their WORD and that you made an impact even if they didn’t decide on a WORD. Some people find their WORD quite quickly and others days later. Even if they didn’t find a WORD while with you, realize that you made an impact just having them reflect and think. You got them a few steps closer. There’s no need to feel pressure as if you somehow failed if you didn’t help them find a WORD. That relaxed confidence will make the process more enjoyable for both of you. (It’s also totally OK to give them a blank bracelet as a reminder for them to keep an intention to find their WORD; they can always come back to you to get it stamped when they've found it).
CONNECT & ENGAGE
I usually start by asking them “What’s Your WORD?” followed by a brief explanation such as:
“I’d like to make you a bracelet or necklace with your WORD of intention on it. It’s a WORD that serves as a daily reminder to be your best self or what’s most meaningful to you."
I then PAUSE to let them reflect. Depending on their reaction, I might say: “Would you like a few questions that might be helpful?” If they say yes, I’ll usually ask them:
- What’s a quality or virtue you want more of in your life? Might be helpful to think of someone you admire - what do you admire about them?
- What’s a challenge you want to overcome?
- What is something that makes you feel alive and you want to spend more time on?
Your role at this point is NOT to:
- Share your own WORD (unless they ask)
- Try to suggest or guess their WORD
EMBRACE THE AWKWARD SILENCE
Note the importance of being relaxed (so they don’t feel rushed) and to “play the pause”. We often find that silence is awkward and fill it with more explanation or ramblings. But please know that silence and pause is really really important to allow the other person to reflect and process. Have the discipline to wait until the other person asks you for guidance before you jump in.
SUPPORT & ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
If needed, stay focused on asking more questions rather than trying to come up with answers for the other person. You might be tempted to create a list of WORDs based on their initial responses. However, unless the other person asks, allow them to share what’s coming to mind for them. Simply ask open ended questions like “would you share more?” or "why" or "how" keeps the conversation flowing.If they are really struggling coming up with a WORD, you might offer a suggestion with this phrasing: How do you feel about X? Don’t impose with a phrase like: Your WORD should be X.
In the end, they will be more excited and take ownership if they come up with their own WORD and you will feel a great sense of accomplishment having coached them to find it.
FINDING THEIR WORD
By asking your loved ones the three questions listed above, or the questions on MyIntent's Question Cards, they may have discovered their WORD. For example:
- If the challenge they want to overcome is low energy, identifying and spending more time pursuing a PASSION might be their word.
- If they are drawn to the question card "What was Your Childhood Dream?" and their answer is to dance, DANCE might be their word.
- If the question card "what did you learn from your biggest regret?" speaks to them and they answer "not taking a chance at something because they were afraid" then maybe their word is BELIEVE.
If you want to take the conversation a step further, you might try some of the follow-up questions I've listed in the examples below:
FROM NAME TO INTENTION
I was helping a mom and her first reaction was to get her kid's names. I politely asked her what quality she wanted to have to be a great parent. She thought for a minute and replied “COURAGE!”
A filmographer initially wanted his last name. I was curious as to why and he shared “to make my parents proud!” I then asked him what he could do to make his parents proud. He said to have better morning and evening routines. He then came up with DISCIPLINE. A couple of days later he told me that seeing it on his wrist helps him wake up earlier and be more productive.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR SUCCESS?
I had the owner of a coffee shop choose the word SUCCESS initially. I then asked him what it would take to achieve success and he said he needed to build a sense of COMMUNITY for his new space.
10X YOUR IMPACT
I asked my friend Leila for her word and she replied GIVE WORK, which is the name of her book and the mission of her non-profit which provides jobs to people in developing countries. I sensed she probably didn’t need a reminder of that as she already lives and breathes that mission. I then re-framed the question to say, “what would help you be able to give even more work? What would take you to the 10x your impact of giving work?” She quickly replied “FOCUS”!
TRUST YOUR INTUITION
From these examples, you can see that someone’s initial response may just be a starting point. However, there are plenty of times when their first response ends up being the WORD we go with. Trust your intuition if you want to explore deeper or just enjoy the discovery.
On a practical note, how long you converse will also depend on how much time you and the other person have. If you are trying to help a large group, then you probably have less time to go deep with each person.
In the end, have fun with this and keep an open mind and heart. You’ll be amazed at the stories people share with you and the new connections made.