Words matter: You are from where? You are traveling where?

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

When I travelled a lot I would tell people I was from Iowa. That was problematic.

1 – people picture cornfields

Yes, we have them, but I live in a city.

2 – “Oh, I’ve been to Ohio.”

Or “they have beautiful mountains there.”

“In Idaho?”


At one point when I was traveling and speaking a lot internationally somebody suggested I’d say: “I’m from Cedar Rapids.” Or “the Midwest.” Or “west of Chicago.”

West of Chicago is true but seems like a stretch. I might as well say west of New York. Lol.

I changed my spiel to “Cedar Rapids” and that usually led to one of these:

“Oh, I love Grand Rapids.”

That’s actually in Michigan and is beautiful. I spoke at a conference there before.


“Ok. Cool.”

Which usually means they have no clue where that is. But it’s not that important to push them on that!


<insert story about knowing somebody in Iowa (besides me).>

But certainly people have their preconceived notions about places they don’t live. Like many things in life this is also a two-way street, by the way.

At one point I was telling clients my company had offices in Boston, Seattle, Houston, Louisville and Cedar Rapids – which was true!

Sometimes people would point out Cedar Rapids. Sometimes I would say: “Any why Cedar Rapids, you might wonder?”


“That’s where all the talent is.”

“Do you live there?”



Then sometimes when I wasn’t in the mood for any of this, I’d just say I work for Boston-based …. or Toronto- based…

This was rare. 😉

Wording matters: Case in point: Alabama

In 2018, we were taking a family trip to southern Alabama – aka near the Gulf of Mexico.

I’d tell people I was heading to Alabama. I think many had pictures of Roy Moore riding his horse to the polls (in 2018 also!).

Ok, my bad. I changed where I was going.

“We are heading to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Oh. Cool. Enjoy.”

Same place. Different wording. Same fun trip.

When people tell me that words matter little examples like these come to mind. Life is played in the words we choose.

Success can depend on it! Picking the right ones is fun. Figuring out that words need to change might be just as much fun for us change managers.

It also depends on what you are trying to accomplish. There might be a reason to use the words that draw the more negative reaction. As many things in communications and digital marketing: “it all depends on your goals.”

Special offer: Need help brainstorming for better words? Book a 30-minute call with me here.