Words are incredibly powerful. The things you say or write can give you credibility, make people like you, and influence opinions – or, as you might know, they can get you into trouble. It all depends on how you use them so, choose your words wisely.
Using the right words at work can help you win a promotion or get on your manager’s good side, it could help you explain a situation to your partner or friend but, have you ever stopped to consider how saying the wrong things can hold you back? You may not even notice it, but things you say without even thinking hold a lot of weight.
If you’re guilty of throwing around these words and phrases, it might be time for a little self-intervention:
Do you ever find yourself saying “I just want to ask…” or “I just thought I’d throw this out there…”? I used to, all the time.
Throwing in a ‘just’ softens the blow of whatever follows. For me, it’s been an answer to my negative self-talk telling me that without the word ‘just’, I’ll come across as being too strong and forward. What I have learnt is that there’s simply no need to use the word. It almost makes it look like you’re asking for permission, knocking to announce your presence before proceeding with whatever it is you need. Stop it. Most of the time, being direct is the best approach. Before you hit send on your next email, read it over and delete the ‘just’s. Just ask the damn question or say what you want to say. You’re allowed.
Sorry is by far the biggest offender on the list. Most of us are guilty of apologising for every little thing, even when we’re not in the wrong. We’re so conditioned to apologise that we’ll apologise for absolutely nothing at all. If it takes you a few hours to get back to an email because you are swamped with a last-minute request from your manager, you shouldn’t feel bad. You’re doing your job. This one’s a tough habit to break, but make a conscious effort, and you might be surprised to find yourself feeling a little more empowered. As an added bonus, when you save your apologies for the times you actually need them, they’ll be way more meaningful.
That’s not fair.
I hate to break it to you, but life isn’t fair, and since work falls under the general ‘life’ umbrella, there’s going to be some overlap. There are going to be people at work who are better at certain things than you are. There will be people with more information and the right relationships. You might bust your ass for that promotion only to watch them bring in someone from another firm to take the job. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself or angry at the outcome, channel that frustration and energy toward something productive -whether that’s learning a new skill to close a gap, having a conversation with your manager to understand how you can improve, or searching for a new job.
Disclaimer: Many countries have legislation in place to prevent discrimination, ensure equal pay, and otherwise protect employees. Brush up on these laws, and don’t hesitate to turn to your human resources department or outside legal counsel if you feel you are being treated unfairly.
That’s not my job.
Now, before I get into this one, I’ll say there’s absolutely a time to draw a line and say no. Know your limits and show yourself some respect. However, it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes open for opportunities to learn and grow. Learn as many things as you can and make yourself as valuable as possible. If someone asks for help and you’re in the position to offer it, take advantage of the chance to try something new. This might not be a good idea, but, when you say this, you’re sabotaging yourself.
But may only be a three letter word but it can certainly change people’s perception of the message you are trying to convey. Using the word ‘but’ could suggest that you’re taking no responsibility, it could also infer that you feel you are the victim. Using the word ‘but’ in conversation can also suggest that you feel you are in the right when perhaps, you are not.
So there you have it, it’s time to choose your words wisely. Stop undermining your credibility and asking permission without realising it. Make a conscious effort to watch your words and eliminate unhelpful phrases from your vocabulary, and you may be surprised by the shift that follows.
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The one I say the most is “that’s not my job”. But I can follow it up with “please speak to x or y”.
Sorry is a big one for me, I am definitely guilty of that!