Power up your communications – Part 1- avoiding killer words

Posted: March 8, 2012 in Words and communications, Writing advice
Tags: , , , , ,

Like the clothes you wear, the words you chose paint a picture of yourself. The receiver of your communications (especially in print/online where you cannot be seen nor heard) judges you based upon the selection of those words. In telephone conversations, your choice of language must not only grab and hold attention in the first 10 seconds but also exude knowledge and trust. Too often the words or phrases we use sabotage or diminish the impact of our message. 

Out of the millions of words in the English language, the following words and phrases have the greatest chance of draining the power from your communications and making the listener think less of you.

The motivation killer word: Should

This word makes you sound weak. It’s a passive word, and when people hear it they feel you are proclaiming to the world that you agree on one course of action that would be appropriate, but you’d rather do the exact opposite. Or that you know exactly what you need to do to make things better and you haven’t started yet! Psychologically, it poisons your own motivation and ambitions whenever you think of your goals as “shoulds”. Replace it with the word “will” and see how the power starts flowing!


In any form of communication, using these two words, “believe” (as in I believe) and “hopefully” will weaken your position. For example, saying “I believe the solution is…” makes it a personal opinion. Leaving out the word “believe” and stating affirmatively “The solution is…” presents it as a fact.

The word hopefully is at its most destructive when you are trying to be persuasive or convincing. No one pays you to hopefully get something done! Instead state what you WILL achieve/do. People don’t want to feel you are full of hope, they want to feel confident that YOU are confident in your ability to carry out your actions.

Using words that ask permission

When you are conducting business, asking for permission takes away any authority you have. Starting your sentences with “May I,” “Could I,” “Can I,” along with tacking on “Please” makes you sound like a child begging its parent for candy. State simply what you require, and end with a cordial “please.” This puts you in the driver’s seat and earns you respect.

Part 2 will examine some words that make you look weak and how to replace defeatist words with power words.

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