Article: To Say or Not to Say: Words you shouldn’t use at work

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To Say or Not to Say: Words you shouldn’t use at work

Are you conscious about your usage of words, or do you tend to speak the first thing that comes to your mind?
To Say or Not to Say: Words you shouldn’t use at work

Albus Dumbledore said, "Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." If you take a moment to ponder upon this statement, you’ll realise the universal truth it accords to our world. What we speak is a reflection of what goes in our minds, and sometimes when we verbalise things – they make more sense. 

Are you conscious about your usage of words, or do you tend to speak the first thing that comes to your mind? While being frank and honest is a prized trait, one must be careful about how they are using words to send across the intended message. What, and how, you speak is the biggest character certificate anyone can bestow upon you – and the best part is, it is entirely in your control. We have put together a list of words and phrases that are likely to reflect negatively on you, if you use them too much. If you do too, it’s time to cut back and be clearer with your communication:

“I’m no expert...”/ “This may sound silly...”

Frequently using this phrase actually reduces the credibility of your statement. The fear of being wrong comes at play, and people begin expressing their opinion with this disclaimer. But you need to understand that you are entitled to your opinion, which may or may not be in alignment with the majority, and announcing that it may be silly is not going to help. Crop this part out, and the impact of the statement increases dramatically, even if you are wrong. 

“That’s how things work here” / “It’s always been that way”

If you have reached a point wherein you find yourself using this expression frequently, it’s time to stop and think. Procedures, processes and ideas are born from logic, and or convenience. So if you don’t know the logic behind a particular concept – you are simply being ignorant. This is also indicative of the inability to be flexible and open to new ideas, especially technology-fuelled ones. In other words, never use this as an answer to ‘Why’.

“I don’t get paid enough for this” / “That’s not my job”

Using this expression as an answer to new responsibilities from a boss, or a request from a colleague reflects more on you than others. Every once in a while, you will have to bite the bullet and do tasks over and above your job description. However, this doesn’t mean you take extra work at the risk of jeopardising your current role. Communicate to your boss about the things on your plate, and decide if you should still take up the additional role. If the additional work becomes a regular feature, you need to have a conversation with your boss to discuss your role in the company, and if your job description needs to be updated. 

“That’s impossible” / “It can’t be done”

Two factors must be considered before making such a statement; one, have you considered every possible solution to the challenge, and two, why does it seem impossible. More often than not, contextualising the obstacles helps reduce the negative impact of such statements. Explain why can’t it be done, and what additional resources, or how much time is required, in order to get it done. Never begin your statement in this manner, for it will provoke the idea that you’ve already given up.

“This will only take a minute”

If you use this sentence more than once a day, you know how hollow it is, right? Even sending a small, but well-crafted, email takes longer than a minute, and unless you want to give the impression that you rush through your work, replace the word ‘minute’ with the words ‘won’t take long’. Furthermore, if you approach your colleagues with some task, and pitch it to them using this statement, it’s likely that the task will be pushed off until later. The very nature of such statements are misleading and do not evoke trust.

“None of it is my fault” / “It’s all their fault”

If a task or project assigned to you or your team isn’t completed in a timely manner, you are solely or in part, respectively, responsible for it, no matter the circumstances. So do not throw your colleagues under the bus, or shrug off responsibility by blaming externalities. Your reasons, no matter how genuine or ironclad are likely to make more sense, if you take onus of the setback, rather than blaming others, and then go onto explain why it happened.

“I feel...”

By announcing that what is to follow is something you ‘feel’, rather than ‘think’ or ‘believe’, weakens the credibility of what you are about to say anyway. As explained wonderfully here, discussing pros and cons, or logic, with somebody who ‘feels’ a certain way is tough. Therefore the next time you are about to present something, explain what you think, or what you believe in, and go on to back that thought or belief with real-world arguments. 

If you have been using any of the above statement more often than you should be, it’s time to consciously reduce it. These and several more such expressions, often diminish our credibility and reputation, without realisation. Bringing about a change in these habits isn’t as tough, and all you need to do is choose your words wisely. You could ask a trusted colleague or friend to point out every time you use such a phrase without realising it. At the end of the day, what you are saying is equally important as how you are saying it. You tone; body language and volume must not be dismissive or superior, but merely honest, empathetic, meaningful and clear.

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