Words Are Powerful – until they’re not – Eliminate these words from your speech and writing

As a Career Advisor, my job is to listen, not only to what is said, but what is not said.  I interpret body language, I delve into areas that are uncomfortable, and I point out areas for exploration or improvement based on what I am hearing, seeing and feeling.  This is the job of a Career Advisor.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a conference room listening to a manager talk about her recent issues with an employee she inherited from the previous manager.  She was having trouble getting through to the employee who was under performing and needed to make some drastic changes to avoid being demoted or let go from the company.   In summary, she was doing a lot of talking and documenting and the employee wasn’t listening or reacting in a way the manager felt was appropriate for the situation.

As I listened more deeply, I realized the manager was using language that was diluting her message.  I could see her frustration, hear the sense of urgency in her tone, but the words weren’t matching the message she was trying to convey.  Oftentimes, recipients of this type of message only hear what they want to hear.

Here is a list of words and phrases she used that diluted her message.

what I am trying to say
my point is
I think
I may be wrong
don’t you think?

If you aren’t able to clearly articulate your message without using one of these ‘qualifiers’, you too could be diluting your message.

I kinda think we’re going in the wrong direction, but I may be wrong.
I believe we’re going in the wrong direction.

Which has power?  Think about how you’d react to these statements if you heard them as you were driving a car and the person in the passenger seat said them.  Would you stop the car?  Ask for directions?  Turn around?  Why?

When are you diluting your messages?  Examine why.  And look to eliminate them from your speech and writing.  Listen to others speak.  How are they taking power out of their messages?  Are there more words and phrases you can add to my list?  Messaging in business is critical.  Make sure you’re using the right language to get your message across so you are heard.

As for my Advisee, she took my advice and started scripting out what she wanted to say to her employee.  She carefully chose her language, practiced what she was going to say and went back to her employee with her revised messaging.  She was heard!  He is making the necessary changes in his work and behavior and he’s on the right path to keeping his career here at Intel.  He ultimately thanked her for the clear messages and said it ‘hadn’t hit home’ the first few times she had tried to tell him.

I’d love to hear from you!  What words and phrases do you use or hear that dilute messages?

6 Responses to Words Are Powerful – until they’re not – Eliminate these words from your speech and writing

  1. Bonnie Davidoff says:

    As I am typing this message I am working very hard to not dilute my message. While in college I had a professor that did not allow us to use the word “think” while writing our essay. I never realized how many times I used the word “think” and then how powerful my writing was when I took that one little word out. In fact if one is still “thinking” something they still might be in doubt. This is very true in the interview process. This days I find phone interviews stressful and the word “think” has slipped out many times. I was so happy to read this post as it brought back how important is it to take out those unimportant words. Now that I am again job hunting this skill will definitely come in handy

  2. Vikki says:

    Hi Bonnie! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. “Think” and “Like” are probably the two words I key on the most when folks are talking in meetings each day. Best wishes with your job search!

  3. Jaspreet Singh Arora says:

    Dear Vikki,
    I agree with you and strongly believe that the power of words should be understood thoroughly before employing them in your speech. I appreciate your advice and i don’t think, but i know this will help a lot. Correctly phrasing a sentence can show one’s confidence and knowledge of a subject. Thank you.

  4. Jeong Julie Lee says:

    I attended PBWC conference yesterday and the importance of choosing the correct words was emphasized there too. One other example a speaker pointed out to eliminate was “I will try”. Think about a situation that you are dropping your son to day care and before you leave he asks, “Mom, are you going to pick me up at 4?”. And the mom goes… “I will try”. How will the son feel?