Ten phrases you should forever ban from the workplace

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When delivering a presentation or sales pitch, you must know your audience and tailor your content to meet its needs.

Being sincere, natural, enthusiastic and passionate go hand-in-hand with maintaining good eye contact and being calm and polite.

But for top leaders and successful managers, it’s much more than style and technique.

For them, it’s content – precise content. It’s crucial to use specific words to achieve success.

And it’s just as important to learn to avoid certain words and phrases that are sure to damage one’s progress.

If you want to maximize your success in making a sale and/or climbing the career ladder – and avoid slipping – here are the top 10 phrases to stop using in the workplace.

(1) Avoid: “I can’t do that” or “That’s impossible” or “That can’t be done.”

Even though you may feel this way on the inside, these negative phrases are perceived by others as pessimistic, unconstructive and even stubborn.

Instead say, “I’ll be glad to check on that for you” or “What I can do is …” or “Because of company policy, what I CAN do is …”

(2) Avoid: “You should have …” or “You could have …” or “You ought to have ...”

The words should, could and ought imply blame, finger-pointing and fault. There’s no quicker way to upset a boss, colleague or customer than to suggest they’re guilty of something (even if they are).

Instead, take a collaborative approach. “Please help me understand why …” or “Next time, may we adopt an alternative approach …” or “I understand your challenges; let’s resolve this together …”

(3) Avoid: “That’s not my job” or “I don’t get paid enough for this” or “That’s not my problem.”

If you’re asked to do something by your boss, co-worker or a customer, it’s because it’s important to them. Therefore, as a team player, goal No. 1 is to figure out how to help them get it accomplished. Even if it’s not in your job description, by saying so displays a career-limiting bad attitude.

(4) Avoid: “I may be wrong, but …” or “This may be a dumb question, but …” or “I’m not sure about this, but …” or “This may be a silly idea, but …”

Eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans or negates what you’re about to say. Instead, get rid of the self-deprecating phrase, drop the “but” and make your comment.

(5) Avoid: “I’ll try.”

Imagine your boss says to you, “I need your proposal by 10 a.m. tomorrow for the customer meeting.” Your reply is, “OK. I’ll try to get it finished.”

The word “try” implies the possibility it may not get finished.

(6) Avoid: “I think …”

Which of these two statements do you find to be more effective? “I think you might like this new solution we offer” vs. “I believe (or I’m confident) you’re going to like this new solution we offer.”

The difference in wording is fairly subtle. However, the influence communicated to your customer can be profound. Notice how the second sentence is confident and strong. It’s a statement from someone who believes in what he or she is saying.

(7) Avoid: “… don’t you think?” Or “… isn’t it?” Or “… OK?”

To convey a confident commanding presence, eliminate validation questions. Make your statement or recommendation with certainty and avoid tacking on the unnecessary approval-seeking question.

Don’t say, “This would be a good investment, don’t you think?” Instead say, “This solution will be a wise investment that provides long-term benefits.”

(8) Avoid: “I don’t have time for this right now” or “I don’t have time to talk to you right now.”

Other than being abrupt and rude, this phrase tells the person they’re less important to you than something or someone else. Instead say, “I’d be glad to discuss this with you. I’m meeting a deadline at the moment. May I stop by your office [or phone you] this afternoon?”

(9) Avoid: “… but …”

Simply replace the word “But” with “And.” The word “but” cancels and negates anything that comes before it.

Imagine if a software salesperson said, “Yes, our implementation process is fast, easy and affordable … but we can’t install it until June. The “but” creates a negative, offsetting the benefits of fast, easy and affordable.

Replace the “but” with “and” and hear the difference.

(10) Avoid: “He’s a jerk” or “She’s lazy” or “They’re stupid” or “I hate my job” or “This company stinks.”

Avoid making unconstructive or judgmental statements that convey a negative attitude toward people or your job. If a genuine complaint or issue needs to be brought to someone’s attention, do so with tact, consideration and non-judgment.

For example, when discussing a co-worker’s tardiness with your boss, don’t say “She’s lazy.” Instead say, “I’ve noticed Susan has been an hour late for work every morning this month.”

A 20-year veteran of the speech communication training field and founder of Well Said Inc., Darlene Price of Atlanta is the author of “Well Said: Presentations and Conversations that Get Results?” She can be reached via her publicists at (800) 457-8746.

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