Don’t Let One Word Sabotage Your Message

not listening

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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How Not To Get Scrooged At Work – 9 Ways To Get Your Voice Heard


Oh meetings, how we can sometimes loathe thee. Especially if we feel that we cannot or will not be afforded the opportunity to contribute.

It is not uncommon to have meetings in which certain participants steamroll the entire gathering refusing to release the floor or budge on their ideas. These are the Grinchs and Scrooges.

Some participants like to talk just to hear themselves talk and feel empowered by taking over a meeting. Other steamrollers are actually insecure about their own ideas, value or contributions. They use the reverse effect – ram it down everyone’s throat in such a forceful way that just by sheer volume and content it tricks the participants during that time to believe there is confidence and validity to their ideas.

On the other side of the table are introverts, polite ones and the nervous. Those participants may not be comfortable with expressing their ideas in a public forum, too polite to interrupt the Grinchs or Scrooges or afraid of being shot down for a “bad” or “ridiculous” idea. Those are the Hermey the Elf, Rudolphs or Bob Cratchits.

Just like little Hermey got to be a dentist, you too can have your voice heard at work; here are nine strategies to help build your confidence and speak up:

1. Speak Early

Agendas and tones for a meeting are set early. It is important for you to have your voice heard and be noticed early in the group. Often, in being nice or apprehensive, Hermeys, Rudolphs or Bob Cratchits wait to get a feel or hope for an opening to speak up; by that time it is too late and they run the risk of being steamrolled or too afraid to speak up.

2. Encourage and Build

An easy way to get your voice heard is to compliment or state agreement. A simple, “Great idea Scrooge” can get you heard and noticed in a non-threatening manner. Only agree if you truly agree.

A way to insert your point is to take the positive approach incorporating agreement to a degree. This is encouraging and building.

“Great idea, Grinch, and what if we built on that to add stars on top of all the trees?”

3. Body Language

Messages are perceived and “heard” more through the use of body language rather than verbal communication. Before you speak, set the tone. Straighten up, lean forward, place your hands down on the table in front of you, roll your shoulders back, tilt your head up slightly – in other words, prepare to speak and be seen.

There are three ways to get your voice heard, let Grinch or Scrooge know you were listening, slow down the steamroller, fine tune points and set you up to make further contribution. These can all be done in a non-confrontational manner that conveys that you are not challenging the other parties by using “I” statements.

4. Ask Questions

Instead of feeling like you are jumping in and directly opposing an idea, which may be perceived and reacted to as an attack; ask questions. Asking for clarification is also helpful to the group.

“Excuse me, Grinch, I want to make sure I understood what you just said. Was it your point that we should take down all Christmas lights…”

5. Find Cohesion

Sometimes a meeting can get a little frenzied with competing points, escalating voices and tempers. One way to redirect and rebalance is to find the cohesion between the conflicting parties.

“If I understand Grinch correctly, you are saying we should work overtime on the holiday and Scrooge is saying there should be no early shut down on the holiday – so at the core you are both suggesting that the toy factory stay open that day. Am I correct?”

6. Clarify Differences

Another frenzied point is when Grinchs and Scrooges want to argue for the sake of argument, but no one really knows what they are arguing about because they have lost sight of the point due to the bad behavior.

“Just to make sure I understand the point of disagreement – Grinch you are saying expand hours and Scrooge you are saying reduce wages, is that correct?”

Of course there is another way that forces you to have your voice heard –

7. Ask For a Project

Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and put yourself in a position that is not comfortable. Realize that the Grinches and Scrooges may try to interrupt and steamroll, remain calm. If they blow off some steam, simply redirect:

“Thank you for that insight Scrooge, at the conclusion of my presentation that would be a good point to address”

“Good point Grinch, I think that will be addressed in just a moment when I continue with my presentation”

Then continue from where you were.  Remember, sometimes they just like to hear their own voice just for the sake of it.

8. Practice

Practicing in front of mirror at home may feel silly, however, habits are learned. Pretend as though you are in the meeting surrounded by only Grinches and Scrooges. Ask a question, clarify a difference or find cohesion and watch your body language in the mirror. Do you look confident? Does your voice sound confident? Practice until you speak with a solid tone, manner and presence making it much easier when the time comes.

9. Why You Are There

The most important element to being heard is to remember that you are there to contribute because you add value. They may be louder, more boisterous and pushier than you but that does not mean they have more to contribute or have better ideas. They are just louder, more boisterous and pushy – period.

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