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5 Most Destructive Phrases in Business

To be a better business leader, you need to avoid these five destructive phrases like the plague.

How often have you been in a productive business meeting only to have it come to a grinding halt because of something someone said? It happens all the time. A negative comment or a pessimistic concern can not only bring down morale, it can derail an entire strategy. I am convinced that there is no limit to what a team can accomplish if they were to eliminate these five destructive phrases.

1. "I can't (fill in the blank)."

Few other words in the English lexicon irk me more than the word "can't." Okay, technically, it is two words conjugated. Nevertheless, "can't" is a killer. It is one of the most commonly used ways of dodging and dishing off responsibility. It is just another way of saying "won't," as in "I won't do what I need to do to get it done." Remember, whether you think you can or think you can't...you're right.

2. "That's not the way it's done."  

Like every paradigm throughout history, at some point or another, things change. Conducting business status quo may keep you on the current trend, but to be a standout, you must do and think unlike anyone else. Great ideas and concepts come from disruptors who drive outside the lines, and nothing revolutionary ever came from doing things "the way they are done."

3. "That's impossible."

My dad once told me that the only thing that is impossible is for a man to have a baby.  Everything else is in the realm of possibility. I replied by saying, "You can't make the sky green." He then proceeded to draw a picture and color the sky green. It was an exaggeration, but I got the point. We are limited only by the limitations we place on our own realm of possibility. And, by his rationale, even my dad was wrong.  Arnold Swartzenegger had a baby.

4. "If we only had money."

Many entrepreneurs and managers, myself included, often dream and quip of the endless business possibilities we would have if only we had the flexibility of a huge financial war chest at our disposal. Unfortunately, you do not have Apple's $150M cash reserve, so get used to it. Remember, however, that even Apple started out in a garage with very little money.

5. "The problem is (fill in the blank)."

There are 7 billion people in the world. Of them, 6.999 billion of them are really, really good at identifying problems (note: that is not a scientific study). The rest are the successful business leaders who are really, really good at identifying solutions. The only time the word "problem" should come up in a meeting is if it is preceded with the words "I think I've have found a solution to the ..."

If you want to differentiate yourself as a business leader, then 86 these phrases from your vernacular. It goes beyond thinking positively, as you need to act positively as well. And, in order to encourage your colleagues to do the same, I suggest having a "Phrase Jar" at your next meeting. Punish anyone who utters one of the above phrases by requiring them to contribute one dollar to the jar. Require them to deposit two dollars for the word "can't."  It is that destructive and annoying, and let's face it, it is actually two words conjugated.

What other phrases do you find destructive? Please share below!

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Last updated: Mar 28, 2013

PETER GASCA | Co-founder of WildCreations.com

Peter Gasca is the co-founder of Wild Creations, an Inc 5000 company that focuses on kid-related products and supports kid entrepreneurs. He is also a small-business consultant, youth entrepreneur mentor, and business adjunct lecturer.




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