I am going to make a generalization here and throw this out there: if you do not think one word is important or can change the whole meaning of your message or dynamic of your conversation – you have never talked to a woman.
Don’t believe me? Try this little experiment: tell your wife or girlfriend tonight “You never do …” fill in the blank. (By the way, it works for men, too).
That never will probably get you a raised eyebrow, followed by an “Oh, really” and then the fun begins. Never and always are pretty much banned in our house. My boyfriend and I are challengers – give us a challenge and we will make it our life’s mission to do it. Give us a ‘never’ or ‘always’ and we will mentally rehash over two years of our relationship to find that five second interval that proves the other wrong.
Communication is the most important tool we have, yet it can easily be turned from a tool to a weapon with just one word.
The weapon can provoke or harm your audience. With one little word you can completely destroy someone’s confidence in themselves, or you; deflate their attitude or progress; cause them to be defensive or completely shut down in listening to you altogether.
Some of the words that create such chaos include: ever, never, always, but, only, guess, try and might. These are just the beginning pack of words, but enough to get you started in being more cognizant in how you use them.
“Did you ever finish that report?”
“You never answer my calls”
“You did a good job, but…”
“You only had to do this task”
“I guess I could help/attend…”
“I can try to help/be there…”
“I might be able to…”
In the above examples, the underlying message is disappointment, disengagement and insincerity – to name a few. Is that really the message you want to convey?
Just by being a bit mindful of the small little words we throw into our communication we can keep peace, harmony and momentum while still getting our original or intended message across.
‘But’ is my personal most hated word. When you use but in a sentence it completely invalidates everything before it and puts the receiver immediately on the defensive. If you think someone did a good job and there is a bit more to do, try saying it in a different way:
“You did a good job on this project, now let’s try making these tweaks and it will be fantastic.”
“You did a great job; however, this part missed the mark a little, what do you think we can do?”
“You did great and we are almost there we just need to tweak these two parts…”
Your message of ‘there is still work to be done’ is conveyed without losing the positive message. The receiver will be more inclined to listen to ideas, take direction and keep momentum in completing the task because their effort was recognized, appreciated and clear direction was given for what is next.
Removing small little words that create big conflicts sure makes life easier for everyone. And just for the record, I really would not suggest doing the experiment mentioned above, to make your life easier, just take my word for it.
A little about me: I do what I love: help leaders break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews their brilliance!
As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
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