“Words to Use”
When you open your mouth and begin to speak, talk as if your life depended on it. Because it does–at least when you’re at work.
What you say can make the difference between keeping or losing your job. Or getting or not getting a promotion. Holding onto or losing key employees. It’s the difference between a satisfying career and a job that pays the bills.
Nothing you do in business is more important than how you put yourself across, says Jack Griffin, author of How to Say It at Work. If you want to be professionally profitable, begin with the building blocks of communication: words. But not just any old words.
According to Griffin there are a core set of 50 words and phrases that every business-person should know and use. The first three–and probably the most important–seem like no-brainers: we, us and our. But there’s a lot to it.
“Communication is essentially an exchange between an I and a you. I want this, and you want that. The most basic step you can take to begin effective communication is to translate the I and the you into a we,” he says.
When communicating, your goal is to find common ground, where interests, needs and wants are mutual. “This is a powerful basis for all communication, especially in business, which is rooted in the exchange of value for value.”
The words we, us and our are words of inclusion, cooperation–the essence of the next most important word–rapport, which is “a relationship of mutual trust or emotional affinity.” And the quickest way to create rapport is to use we, us and our instead of I, me and you.
More words that cultivate rapport and are essential to your vocabulary include: analysis, guide, brainstorm, hear, learn, huddle, solve, thanks, confer. They convey the power of working together, or translating I and you into we.
Other powerful words are ones that focus on the exchange of value–another key element in a productive business relationship–such as feasible, improve, profitable, smart, vigorous, expedite, increase. You won’t see words like price and cost on the list, because, “whatever your business, it is value you are selling, not cost and not price–and value is what elevates a business transaction into a business relationship,” he says.
On the other hand, avoid language that divides and limits, defines a winner and loser or pits an I against a you. These include: blame, cannot, demand, excuse, fail, final, tired, stupid, loss, insist, impractical, unfair.
You’re not trying to avoid reality or sugarcoat problems. After all, your employer has hired you to solve problems. But you don’t want to describe situations as if they are impossible to deal with. So avoid words that create limitations. Instead, use language that builds business relationships. In other words, says Griffin, “Approach difficulties with language that defines them as opportunities, not as dead ends.”
These words can be powerful when used with clients as well as your boss. If you want to make sure you stay in good graces with your boss, there are a number of words and phrases to avoid: big trouble, bored, back burner, blew it, I was just lucky, underpaid, just one of those things, not my problem, quick and dirty, time flies, I forgot, can’t be done, it was a piece of cake, set in our ways, I’m only human, that’s my final word on the subject.
And when it comes to talking with people who work for you, words and phrases to use include: advice, invest, future, learn, formulate, discuss, revise, reconsider, get your input, realize our goals, build on this. But stay away from: can’t do it, don’t ask, not allowed, you’d better.
If you put this kind of thought into your communication, the phrase, “Think before you speak” has even greater meaning. It could mean the difference between stagnation and success.