12 Most Debilitating Phrases to Use in Business
The words we use have a more significant effect on our success than we would often like to admit. And we’re creatures of habit—we get sucked into saying the same things over and over and over and over again (pun intended). Sometimes, these clichés are fairly harmless—like answering, “Fine” when someone asks what we’re doing. Other times, however, the phrases we use can send negative signals to both ourselves and others—without us even realizing it. Here are some words and phrases to leave out of our vocabulary…
1. “I can’t…”
It’s much easier when someone asks you to do something, to say that you can’t rather than to say the truth–that you won’t. Yes, you’ve made prior commitments or perhaps you have enough on your plate, but be honest. You’ve chosen these things. Don’t apologize for it unless you are ashamed. When you tell people that you “can’t,” you tell yourself that you are a slave to your circumstances.
2. “It’s not my fault…”
It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. The only question that should matter is, “where do we go from here?” When you say, “it’s not my fault,” you are really saying that you’re more concerned about clearing your name than you are about finding a solution to your problem. You don’t have to take the blame. But you should always be more than willing to take the responsibility.
3. “I don’t have time to…”
We all say this…and we’ll all know it’s a red herring. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and we all get to choose how we spend it. When we say we don’t have time, we really mean we’ve already used our time for something else. Let’s stop telling ourselves we’ve been given less time than others. We choose how we spend it. Let’s be willing to live with it.
4. “I’m sorry, BUT…”
If you’re going to apologize (and you should), then apologize. Don’t give excuses. “I’m sorry I yelled at you in front of your co-workers, but your behavior was inexcusable,” is not an apology. The second half of your statement negates the first. The person you are apologizing to never hears the word, “sorry.” It goes in one ear and out the other.
5. “But I tried…”
Really? You tried. Oh, okay. It’s alright then. Wait, were you paid to try or to actually produce? While Yoda says, “Do or do not; there is no try,” I believe that you can really try and still fail. But there’s no shame in failure. Admit that you failed instead of trying to excuse yourself from defeat by going on and on about your heroic efforts.
6. “To tell you the truth…”
Never begin a sentence in this way. Never say, “To be honest with you…” Obviously, when you say this, the person you are speaking to thinks you are lying every time you don’t say it. If you have to preface a statement by saying that it will be true, what does that say about every other time you speak? Just be truthful all of the time and you won’t have to emphasize your honesty each time you speak.
7. “I’m tired…”
Yes, we all know that you are exhausted. Your life is work and there is no respite from your efforts. But, when you yawn and start talking about how tired you are, guess what happens? You become more tired. It’s the perfect marriage of self-fulfilling prophecy and a vicious cycle. Stop talking about how tired you are…and just get a good night’s sleep.
8. “I’m in a meeting…”
Now, granted. There are some meetings that are important and some that are unavoidable. But, let’s be honest with ourselves. The majority of our meetings could be canceled and business would go on without a hitch. So, when our meetings are interrupted by something more important, say a client, or a supplier, or an employee, or just about anything, let’s just welcome the interruption.
9. “I’ll get to it tomorrow…”
If you can do it now, just do it. I know, you’ve got a full schedule and have to keep to your priorities. But, if you have five minutes to complete a two minute task, do it now. If you wait until tomorrow, that task is going to turn into a ten minute task. Now is all you have. Take advantage of it while you have a chance.
10. “What are we doing for lunch?”
Yes, I know you have to eat. But do you really have to start talking about lunch at 10:30 in the morning? Don’t you have work to do? This lunch talk is the embodiment of time-wasting, water-cooler discussion. How about instead of asking, “what are we doing for lunch?” We start asking, “what are we doing for our customers?”
11. “I don’t care…”
Never say that you don’t care. It doesn’t matter what it is, try to understand. When you tell yourself or others that you don’t care, you stop paying attention. You actually stop caring. And you might just miss something important…
12. “It costs too much…”
Okay, so I admit I’m a little biased, being a marketing guy. But, nothing costs too much if it can get you an even greater return. Instead of saying, “it costs too much,” let’s say instead that “it isn’t worth it.” Always be willing to make a worthy investment.
Okay, so there are a lot more phrases out there that can negatively impact our ability to be successful business people. What are some of the things you’ve heard, or perhaps have even said yourself, that don’t belong in our business vocabulary?
Featured image courtesy of trs125 licensed via Creative Commons.