• Helen

Did I say that!?

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Our spoken word is deliciously revealing. The words we chose express what we think, what we believe and what we value, as well as our secrets and fears.

If you are puzzled by a lack of advancement in your career, perhaps one of the reasons is your choice of words.

Here are a few phrases that you might like to listen out for in your next conversation and what they might be saying about the person speaking them (which could be you). 

Self-limiting language

I couldn’t possibly do/say that.

That’s not my kind of thing or that’s not me.

I’m too old… too young… too small... too tall... too new...

This person has adopted a set of beliefs, principles or judgements that keep them safe from hurt, disappointment and failure. Unfortunately using this type of language regularly will convince everyone else that what they say is probably correct, so creating a self-fulling fate.

Uncommitted language

I’ll try to….

I’ll see how it goes...

Maybe…. perhaps….

This is very common language to hear and it says 'I’m not sure I can or that I’m willing to commit to you and I just need a bit of time to find a good reason why I feel that way'. What this person really wants to say is ‘No' but that’s far too direct and will likely cause an awkward conversation which they want to avoid. Unfortunately this passive approach creates disappointment and tension when they don't deliver or when they cancel at the last minute. Overtime this person is seen as weak and unreliable which is a shame because their initial intention was to not over promise and under-deliver. 

Extreme language

I never… 

He always… 

It was a total disaster… 

It’s impossible… 

I hate… 

Easy language to use as it illustrates a point beautifully, however as extremes are rarely factually correct using them at work can have a negative impact on a person's character. This type of language labels a person 'overly emotional', so not the right person to include in the important conversations that require calmness, emotional intelligence and thoughtful analysis.

Externally referenced language (aka what will the neighbours think?)

They might not like it….

People say that I’m… 

My friends think I should… 

This person is conscious of how his/her actions might be viewed by others and this influences their decision making. Oftentimes it’s an assumption of what people think and not based on anything anyone has actually said. While it is interesting to consider the views of others, hold them at arms length like smelly socks because someone else’s view says a lot more about them than they do about you and what is best for you. 

OK, so I’m guilty of all of the above at one point or another. It’s a daily practice to catch myself and remove them from my language. If one does slip out, I rephrase myself immediately by simply removing the unhelpful language. As a result I've noticed that while I say less, conversations feel more solid.

Have a go. 

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