Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary’

There are many words or phrases in English that when used can weaken your message.  For the past few weeks I’ve been working with someone on a rather complicated project. Every time I ask her when she’ll be completing a deliverable, she says she’ll “try to” get it in by the date. It’s not that she doesn’t bring it in on time, but the use of that phrase frustrates me. I can’t be sure of her confidence in her abilities or her time management skills. I’ve also noted she uses the word “try” many times in non-work related conversations.

To “try” means to “make an attempt or effort” to do something, not necessarily to do it. It makes you look wishy washy, undependable and especially if you are a woman, weak.  Have you ever stood up and “tried” to walk? Not since you were a toddler or had a broken leg! Why do you think Niki athletic shoes uses the slogan “Just do it”? Catchy but also powerful.

Of all the power draining phrases I can think of “I’ll try to” is the worse. I gently brought this to my partner’s attention and she was amazed that it was undermining her self-image. We agreed to play a little game and every time she used that, now banned word, I would whistle (sort of like a coach’s “time out”). She says it’s hard to break the habit but is grateful to be able to work towards creating a more powerful professional image.

So monitor yourself. If you are “trying” too often, force yourself to substitute “I will”. People will see you as determined, dependable, and someone they can count on to get the job done.

Today in this post we continue examining words that make you look weak and how to replace defeatist words with power words.

Being apologetic

“Sorry” and “Just” are the two most offensive words in this category. Eliminate sorry unless you are truly making an apology. “Just” creates the inference that what you are saying is not important and you are apologizing for inconveniencing the other person to have to attend to your communication.

Flabby, tentative words

Phrases such as “would like to” “might be able to” “helped out” all make you sound weak. Use action words that accurately describe what can do or will do. Action words make you a doer. Doers get jobs done. 
 Defeatist words:

If you continually use defeatist words you will defeat yourself before you even start. These words not only send out negative messages but also program you internally for failure. The following shows some defeatist phrases and how they can be turned into more positive ones:

Defeatist   Powerful
“I have to” “I choose to”
“I might” “I will”
“Maybe” “Certainly”
“I can’t” “I can”
“I don’t know” “I’ll find out”
“I’ll think about it” “Let me give it some thought”

 Sometimes it is not just the word itself but the choice between 2 different words that can add or subtract power from what you say.

For example, in “Friendliness is a salesman’s best asset,” you replace “friendliness” with “a smile”. The new sentence reads, “A smile is a salesman’s best asset.” Friendliness conveys too many things, and is ambiguous. However, the word smile always has a positive connotation, everyone is won over by a smile, and the word can easily be visualized. 

Lastly, peppering your sentences with “Ah,” “Oh,” “Like,” “Sure,” or any other word that has no real use in a sentence (just listen to a teenager and you’ll see what I mean!) makes you sound less intelligent.

The old adage says “the pen is mightier than the sword.” In your communications, make sure your words are sharp like daggers, not dull like butter knives!