Be even more successful by using these 3 little words

One of the benefits of being in my line of work is learning little-known, proven workplace-effectiveness techniques that increase success – and then sharing them with you!

For example, did you know that changing just a few of the everyday words you use while conducting business can actually enhance people’s positive impressions

Be even more successful by using these 3 little words

  1. “Do” or “can” instead of “try.” When you’re a pro at what you do, you understand the importance of managing expectations among the people you support and work with in the office. That’s why so many of us use the word “try” (as in, “I will try to have that report finished Tuesday”) to buffer our schedules and communicate parameters on tasks and projects. Problem: “Try” has a somewhat wimpy connotation, as if you’re unsure – even when you aren’t, of course! Solution: Replace with variations of the words “do” or “can” instead – and focus on what is definite: “I’ll do a preliminary outline by Tuesday for review,” or “I will complete a preliminary outline Tuesday.”
  2. “Believe” instead of “think” or “feel.” If you’re a careful listener, you’ll often hear people say something like, “I think/feel the best course of action is….” Communication experts agree that replacing “think/feel” with “believe” expresses even more assertiveness and self-confidence to management, colleagues and clients: “I believe you’re right.” Bonus fact: To communicate even more directly and succinctly, practice dropping the use of “I believe,” and stick with the statement itself: “You’re right.”
  3. “And” instead of “but.” Here’s one of my favorites! See if you can tell the difference between these two statements: “I know you’ve missed the deadline, but…” vs. “I know you’ve missed the deadline, and….” The first sets up a negative “but,” which precedes bad news – and since people know this, they tend to get defensive or tune out whatever follows, regardless of its legitimacy. Conversely, the second statement acknowledges the bad news, yet skillfully avoids the sense that a shoe is about to fall. Result? The “and” says, “We can work on a solution, which is more important than the blame right now” – and people are far more likely to listen, meaning communication improves.

Successful professionals focus on what I call the “language of the positive.” There are many, many more examples of this than those I’ve provided. Can you think of any additional ways to change commonly used words or phrases so co-workers and clients respond even better? I encourage you to delve deep and test new ways to communicate verbally. Have a great week!

Enjoy making these minor changes this week. I would love to hear how these three little words work for you.

Joan Burge




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4 thoughts on “Be even more successful by using these 3 little words”

  1. I tend to think in whole sentences rather than individual words but there are instances when tweaking my words would help.

    One of my favourite responses when I’m being blamed for an issue I’ve had no involvement in prior to it arriving with me is “I’m not responsible for the problem you’re dealing with but I will take responsibility for helping you deal with it”. I see the ‘but’ as being a way of drawing a clear boundary between my actual rights and responsibilities for the complainant to see. Particularly useful when organisational systems are at fault and you’re the individual being personally targeted for systemic failings.

    I tend to view things systemically rather than personally so when I see a repeating interpersonal issue I’ll sometimes design a draft form or diagram of a potential systemic solution then present it to the person or people I believe either need to see the bigger picture or are in a position to do something about it even if they’re not involved in it. The result is either I’m asked to pilot the system to see if it works or the receivers are so horrified by the idea of having to develop a whole new system they find a way to make sure the issue of concern doesn’t come my way again.

    One of the phrases I most dislike being on the receiving end of is ‘you don’t understand’ (which sounds a lot like ‘you’re a bit stupid while I am more intelligent than you’ when the truth is I haven’t been informed of what it is I allegedly don’t understand. I must remember to replace ‘you don’t understand’ with ‘I don’t think you’ve been informed’ when I’m talking to others.

    Thanks Joan – I could be thinking about this for the rest of the day now!

  2. Great post, it is amazing how changing a few words can brighten the outcome. Just like the words in this very busy time like, can I assist you with that, or how can I help.

  3. Can I print this for my office bulletin board for other staff to see, if I include the reference that I got it from you?

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