Words are powerful things. Consider the various ways they can influence your personal or company brand: A blog people actually want to read, content marketing that lures thousands of new users to your products or services, an authentic voice that gets people interacting with you on social media, succinct business writing that saves time and eliminates uncertainty. Wield them skillfully and words can be some of your most powerful assets.
They can also be your undoing. Here are a handful of words and expressions to remove from your vocabulary:
Actually and But
Carolyn Kopprasch, chief happiness officer at Buffer, recently opined that when it comes to customer service these seemingly innocuous words can put distance between you and your customers. She gives these examples:
Actually, you can do this under "Settings."
Sure thing, you can do this under "Settings!"
The first sentence implies the customer was wrong about something, and you never want to elicit that sentiment.
As for "but," look at the difference removing it makes, she points out.
I really appreciate you writing in, but unfortunately we don't have this feature available.
I really appreciate you writing in! Unfortunately, we don't have this feature available.
It's a subtle fix that makes your message more positive.
No matter the context, this one smacks of negativity. Consider phrases you might hear and how someone might interpret them.
"Just a minute." Your priorities are somewhere other than helping me.
"Just do XYZ." You think I'm having a hard time figuring this out.
"I'm just an intern." You think your power or influence is limited, in which case it certainly is.
Blogger, speaker, and consultant Matt Monge takes special issue with the latter example. "You're not just your position. You're an integral part of your organization," he writes. "You're an individual with goals, dreams, abilities, and ideas. You can be a motivated, empowered, positive, valuable member of the team if you just decide to put forth the effort and work it takes to be those things."
Always and Never
These are classic weapons wielded in relationships that show up in the form of "You always do XYZ" or "You never do ABC." Really? Every single time? Think hard about it--do the behaviors that bother you the most truly happen without fail?
"Never" can also be unduly limiting. Even if you think something will never ever happen, voicing your negativity can discourage others from contributing ideas that could solve a problem.
Everyone has things they could be doing differently but "shoulding on yourself" isn't going to propel you to action. Not only will a self-inflicted guilt trip lead to balking, dwelling on your shortcomings can quickly spiral out of control and result in negative and counter-productive self-talk.
"'I should be [doing something more] leads to 'Man, I lack discipline' which leads to 'What's wrong with me?' which leads to 'Maybe I don't have what it takes ... why do I even bother ... I should just quit now ...'" says psychologist and master violinist Dr. Noa Kageyama. "And pretty soon we're sitting on the couch watching reruns of The Office and eating a six-pack of Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches."
Instead of "should" Kageyama advises using a phrase that's more specific and solution-focused. For example, you could tell yourself that next time you'll spend five minutes on the behavior you've been avoiding before doing anything else. Or, "This afternoon I will spend 20 minutes [searching online] for ideas that might make [this activity] more interesting and challenging in a motivating way," he suggests.
What words bug you the most? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments.