What You Don't Say Is Important Too!


What You Don't Say Is Important Too!


Strength is admired and sought after. Everyone wants to look strong and confident. This is true in personal relationships as well as in business. The words you use with your employees and your coworkers need to be convincing and devoid of ambiguity.


Judith Humphrey, writing in Fast Company, makes the case for losing your dependence on certain verbs that can all too easily creep into our lexicon. These words are common, but also lazy. Don’t forget that one of the important uses of verbs is to convey “action”.  In business, you’ll want to be seen as a person of action, not of indecision.


The six verbs that Ms. Humphrey recommends we eliminate from our business vocabulary are think, need, want, guess, hope, and suppose. Let’s look at how each of these words can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of our business communications.


In a meeting with an employee or coworker, you say “I think the best approach is …”. The listener may interpret this as you not being all that sure of your solution to their problem. You would be better served by saying “I’m convinced (or I’m sure) that we need to do…”


Using the word “need” can be a subtle turn-off to a client, coworker or direct report. When you say you “need” something, you’re indicating your dependency, rather than accentuating their obligation to you. A firm, straightforward request would serve you better.


Much like the word “need”, when you say that you “want” something, you’re again implying that you are dependent or even needy. Neither is a good look. Again, a straightforward request, such as “Please do, obtain, provide, etc.,”, or, “your task is to…” will be see as more forceful and decisive.


You should never use the word “guess” in business. When you say something such as “I guess we should…” you’re conveying a lack of confidence. You come across as tentative, which is never what you want. Use a word that demonstrates belief, assurance, or certainty. Instead of saying “My best guess is that…”, change that to “I anticipate” or “I fully expect”.


In most situations, the word “hope” is accepted as something positive. However, in a business conversation, it could very well be taken as an expression of your lack of control over the situation or the outcome. You are better off expressing your confidence in the outcome that you are promising.


As bad as the word “guess” can be, the use of “suppose”, such as in “I suppose we should do this”, denotes a complete lack of commitment and total indifference to the issue. It basically tells someone that you don’t really care.

In summary, avoid using words that belittle your commitment, imply a lack of control, or suggest you’re unsure or hesitant as to what you’re saying. Making these subtle changes in your business vocabulary will set the mood you’re looking for in any business conversation.