“Actions speak louder than words!”
There’s a lot of truth to this expression.
But our words still hold tremendous power. This is particularly true since a high percentage of our conversations have moved to video and we can only see people from the neck up.
When it comes to keeping our relationships tight, keeping track of the phrases that light people up is a valuable exercise. But don’t underestimate the importance of getting clear on the phrases that drag people down and banishing them from your vocabulary. After all, not saying something that annoys people doesn’t automatically make you likable, but it sure helps.
Over the last year, I’ve been collecting the phrases people love to hear along with those that make their ears bleed. As we wrap up 2020, give people the gift in 2021 of sparing them from hearing the phrases below.
Say “This is just a friendly reminder” or “Just a friendly nudge” to yourself in a variety of tones. They all sound annoying, right?
If you need an update from someone, don’t dance. “Can you give me a status….?” is fine. The same goes for letting people know the due date again to reinforce the information you’re requesting is important to you.
“Let’s play it by ear!”
“Let me sit with that!”
“Let’s touch base on that later!”
According to my friend Marina Glazman, all of these phrases are code for “I don’t care about this, so please f-off!”
Instead of saying something generic, give people a specific response: “Let’s talk about that tomorrow. I’m available at 10 AM.” Or, if it’s something you’re definitely not interested in, let people know your reasoning in private and move on. They may not like it. But it beats the hell out of being strung along.
When someone’s excited about something, they may not be looking for your approval. But they are looking for your support.
“They’d be lucky to have you” or “You’ve put in the work” is much better than saying “Good luck with that” or even “Good luck.”
When it comes to the written word, the burden of clarity always falls on the writer, not the reader. The same goes for the words you say.
Maybe you didn’t communicate as well as you had thought.
Or maybe people are missing crucial information that you assumed they had.
Or maybe they simply didn’t hear you the first time.
When it comes to communication, cut the fluff. This is especially true when you use words that make people question your integrity. The phrase “I’m not gonna lie” doesn’t help your cause either.
Like my wife Laia recently said, “Just because the use of technology continues to rise, doesn’t mean we need to talk like robots.”
Sometimes we have to say things that people may not be looking to hear. When you are in this position, just come out and say what the problem is. People may not love it at the moment, but it can build trust in the long-run as we all need people around us who will give it to us straight.
Plus, “Your presentation skills need work,” is much kinder than adding in a snarky comment before it like “With all due respect.”
The next time you feel the urge to say “Let’s circle back to that” stop yourself and consider the following words instead — “That’s a good point. Let’s talk about it tomorrow morning” or “That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer. But I’ll find out and let you know before the end of the day.”
People don’t like to be reminded you’re smarter than them. And they certainly don’t like to be reminded their life could be better if they’d only listened to your advice.
Our job isn’t to always make other people feel better — sometimes it’s simply to not make people feel worse. Removing the words “I saw that one coming” and any variation of “I told you so” from your vocabulary is an effective way to do that.
Like most of these phrases, I’ve been guilty of saying, “Everything will be okay,” and also “Everything happens for a reason.” But more times than not, they came out as a reaction instead of taking the time to say a thoughtful response.
If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that not everything is going to be okay and not everything happens for a reason. When something bad happens to someone you care about, instead of encouraging them to look for a silver lining, let them lean on you. After all, sometimes the best thing we can say is nothing at all.