Communication skills are a necessity for many career fields. Whether you have mastered the art of interacting effectively or not, chances are you will have to converse with co-workers, clients, and/or online readers at some point in your profession. As you have probably experienced during your lifespan, using the wrong word while trying to convey a point or attempting to ask a question can turn a neutral conversation sour in a matter of seconds. Knowing the words that can put people on the defense and can cast negative shadows on yourself and on your peers can make the difference between a discussion and an argument. Below we have compiled a list of words that, if avoided, can maintain a drama free environment and keep you from offending those you work with.
When using curious to describe oneself or a coworker, a mental image of a nosy gossip often comes to mind. Whether the person you are describing is actually meddlesome or not, it is pretty much guaranteed that he or she does not want to be portrayed in a negative light. To keep everyone’s feelings in mind, and to avoid the conflict that is sure to arise, use keywords such as interested or concerned to describe why you or a coworker may be inquiring about a certain issue.
Before: “I am curious about the new team members we are bringing on board, can you tell me more about them?”
After: “I am interested about the new team members we are bringing on board, can you tell me more about them?”
Sensible is one of those words that when used to describe a person’s actions can leave an individual wondering if they were complimented or insulted. Describing a decision as sensible implies that, although rational, it may not be a verdict everyone supports. By swapping this confusing term for a positive phrase, such as wise, coworkers will feel more confident in their judgments instead of wondering if they could have done better.
Before: It is very sensible to pack light for your business trip.
After: It is very wise to pack light for your business trip.
The word shy is so engrained in the English language that people often forget that it is unkind to describe someone in that way. The definition itself depicts a shy person to be timid, nervous, and self-conscious in the presence of others. Just because a person is less talkative than another does not mean they feel inferior in any way. To avoid unintentional name-calling that will leave workers feeling insulted, and to accurately describe yourself and your fellow peers, substitute the word “shy” with “quiet” for a neutral personality portrayal.
Before: “The man was shy, he hardly ever talked in meetings.”
After: “The man was quiet, he hardly ever talked in meetings.”
It would be one-sided of us to discuss the word “shy” while forgetting its opposite – talkative. Describing someone as talkative evokes the image of a loud salesman that you just can’t seem to escape. To show that someone isn’t afraid to approach people professionally, use words such as friendly and outgoing. The point will still be made that they are comfortable talking to new people without casting a negative light on their personality.
Before: Michael is talkative, never allowing a lull in a conversation.
After: Michael is outgoing, never allowing a lull in a conversation.
Whether you are discussing paperwork, blog articles, people, or projects, avoid the keyword “tardy” at all costs. When you were tardy in school you were reprimanded with a red slip or even worse – detention. Due to this, Americans have associated this word with a negative connotation and substituting this simple expression with something more positive, such as delayed, can mean the difference between an upset superior and an understanding boss.
Before: I’m sorry boss, but my article on keywords is going to be tardy.
After: I’m sorry boss, but my article on keywords is going to be delayed.
In the business world, being assertive is never a bad thing. However, when describing someone as assertive, a pushy and unpleasant impression is given. To show that someone is capable of networking aggressively and has the potential to impress you with their ability to get the job done right, replace assertive with the word confident to discard the negative mental image.
Before: Carol was assertive, pushing the limits until she attained her goals.
After: Carol was confident, pushing the limits until she attained her goals.
04. “I Know”
When in a discussion (or an argument) it can often be frustrating when someone doesn’t seem to be listening to your point of view. Sometimes, it can be your choice of words that put your opponent on the defense, shutting down their ability to listen since they feel they need to come up with another way to defend their opinion. Often times we default to the phrase “I know” when responding to our peer’s argument and send the conversation into a battle of the ego. Next time substitute this simple phrase with “I understand” to show that you are actually listening but have your own ideas as well. This one change will comfort your peer, showing that you value their opinion even though you disagree.
Before: I know what you’re saying but I think the task should be done this way.
After: I understand what you’re saying and I just want to clarify my opinion on how the task should be completed.
Using the word really when describing something is a common habit for many writers (even me at times!). The word “really” rarely enriches a sentence and can almost always be replaced with a higher form of the word it is describing. Although it won’t land you in any fights (most likely) to overuse this unnecessary adjective, swapping it out for different words or deleting it altogether will set a more educated tone for your company and will showcase the awesome writing skills that you possess.
Before: The ravioli was really good!
After: The ravioli was excellent!
Even though we felt this was a given, many companies are still making the mistake of using the keyword “cheap” to describe their products and/or services. When using this word to represent your business, you are giving customers the idea that what you are selling is low quality and potentially defective. To convey that you have low prices and superior products, use words like affordable, inexpensive, or reasonable so that no one is left wondering about the legitimacy of your prices.
Before: These tires are extremely cheap.
After: These tires are extremely affordable.
“Why” made the number one spot on our list because it is such an important word in the English language, yet can pack a ton of attitude when used incorrectly. Many people don’t realize that asking someone why they are doing something triggers an automatic response to defend one’s actions. If, in turn, you replace this word with the phrase “how come”, individuals will be more inclined to explain the reasons behind their endeavors while remaining calm and unthreatened. This simple substitution will showcase your inquiry in a way that doesn’t make you seem superior or offensive.
Before: Why are you filing the blogs that way?
After: How come you’re filing the blogs that way?
Learning to substitute negative words for positive phrases can be a challenging habit to develop. Even changing the way you approach one conversation can make your office atmosphere that much brighter. Go forward with your newfound vocabulary and let us know how you do– we can’t wait to hear!
Copy By: Dana Andersen| Creatine Marketing