Whether you are running a small business, growing a fast-paced tech startup, or just working for the man, everyone wants to be successful, and we all think we know what it takes to get there. But there are things you may not be thinking about which can undermine your chances of success. Little things like your choice of words can have big effects. You may be unintentionally putting up roadblocks on the path to your own success by carelessly uttering seemingly harmless negative phrases. Be careful, your career is important! Don't let yourself be derailed by a poor choice of words.
To help achieve the success you have worked hard for, make a point to strike the following negative phrases from your workplace vocabulary:
1. "I can't do that."
This is basically the same as "I give up." It's not unreasonable to tell a boss or a client that his or her request cannot be fulfilled, but how you do so and how you approach the problem means everything. Very few things in life and business are truly impossible, and most employers and customers want forward-thinking problem solvers on their team, even if the solution requires more time and effort. If you offer your employer and your customers solutions instead of "no," you will be seen as a problem solver, as someone who gets things done no matter what, and that will make you immeasurably valuable in their eyes.
2. "This is how I've always done it."
This is really a continuation of the first statement--it's two different applications of the same dead-end mentality. It says "I am not comfortable thinking outside of the box. I'm not doing it." Not a good strategy.
Insisting on doing things the way they've always been done is one of the best ways to get left behind by your competition. Adapting to an ever-changing marketplace and the ever-changing needs of employers is really the only way to survive in an economy constantly being disrupted by the next big thing. You don't have to be a slave to the trends, but you also can't stick your head in the sand and hope things go back to normal. New problems will present themselves as surely as the sun will rise, and your ability to come up with new or better solutions is what will ultimately put you in front of the pack.
3. "This will just take a minute."
A minute goes by quickly, there is very little you can do in one minute. You can't even cook a Hot Pocket in one minute. This dangerous phrase is one of the worst "over-promise, under-deliver" statements there is. Be very careful with this one. Saying something will only take "a minute" suggests that it is not difficult, and in doing so undermines your effort. Even if you can do it very quickly, don't say it. More likely than not, the reason it can be done quickly is because you are skilled and very good at what you do. When you say it will "just" take a minute, you're shortchanging what you bring to the table. As a rule, if it takes 61 seconds or longer (seriously) to do something, do not say "this will just take a minute."
4. "This is not my fault."
There is no one who wants to work with or be a customer of a blame shifter. It's a practice that generally repulses people, and everyone knows it's just a matter of time before the blame shifter eventually focuses their effort on you. As an employee or as a business, always take ownership of your mistakes instead of pointing out where others have fallen short. The ability to admit mistakes shows character and a capacity to learn and grow from problems. Employers and customers alike appreciate and value these qualities. Constantly pointing the finger at someone else simply informs others that you'll never learn from your errors and cannot be held accountable.
5. "That's not in my job description."
Economies change, demand changes, society changes. When you accepted your current position, you had a good idea of what the responsibilities and workload would entail. However, in the time since you began, no doubt your role has expanded and changed. Some of these changes have been good, while others have made you wish for simpler times. When a boss or client piles another responsibility on your already sore shoulders, it might be tempting to pull out this classic gem of work avoidance.
Resist the urge to go negative. "That's not in my job description" might feel good in the moment, but it will leave a very nasty aftertaste. Instead, schedule an appointment to have a calm, even-tempered conversation about how the new workload is outside of your contract or employment agreement. A prearranged conversation about the details of your work agreement is the appropriate time to discuss such things, not when you're being asked to get something done. No matter how stressed you are or how unreasonable the other party is being, using this phrase only makes you look lazy and unmotivated.
6. "It's not fair."
Welcome to real life, where things aren't fair. As in your personal life, your work life will often be lacking in fairness. Don't complain about it. Instead, try to look for a specific and actionable workaround to your problem. You may not get a contract you bid on or a promotion you deserved. Maybe it will go to someone who deserves it much less than you. This hurts, but it's life, and you can do something about it. Work even harder. Instead of complaining, politely ask why you were not chosen, reflect on what you've learned, and next time go the extra mile. Be so good they can't ignore you. Never quit, and you'll never lose, even if it takes you a little longer to win.
7. "I don't need any help."
Working alone is great if you're Batman, but in the business world you're going to need help sometimes. Don't overemphasize your ability to get things done on your own--being self-reliant is good but teamwork is essential in the modern economy. Being able to work well with others is the hallmark of a good leader, and likewise, a business that can network and cooperate with competitors is much more likely to earn new business and grow. As an employee, you're unlikely to climb the career ladder if you're always flying solo and unwilling to work closely with others on a team. Batman may save Gotham, but he'll never reach middle management.
Everyone wants to be successful, and it's hard to do, even if you say all the right things, all the time. Take care not to handicap yourself with negative words and avoid these seven phrases like the plague. There is a lot more to being successful than just choosing your words wisely, but this is one easy-to-implement step that will prevent you from holding yourself back. Go be amazing!