Words are interesting means of communication. Even under the best of circumstances with the most knowledgeable wordsmiths involved, a simple conversation can result in a disastrous misunderstanding. Sometimes the tools we use to transmit are at fault. Tone can get lost via email. Words can be hard to understand when one or both parties are on mobile phones in noisy areas. Many times it’s a case of semantics–the words someone else uses mean something different to them than they mean to you. When there is a misunderstanding it can be harmless, but at other times words and phrases can hurt feelings and damage relationships. One of the phrases I’m trying to remove from my speech is “Like I said…” I might use this when someone asks me a question I have already answered, as in “Like I said, the Snickers bars are in the freezer.”
There is a potential translation for this phrase. It is “Like I said, you forgetful idiot, the Snickers bars are in the freezer.” You would never say or mean such a thing, of course. You might be thinking to yourself that you use this phrase all the time, but you don’t intend for anyone to feel put down, so it’s their problem if they feel that way. Yes, it is their problem if they misunderstand what you are saying, but if you’re saying it to your star programmer at your new startup, and after two months of you using this phrase he quits and your startup fails, then it’s your problem as well. It’s easier for you to stop using the phrase than it is to figure out who misunderstands what you are saying and get them to change how they interpret your words. Next time someone asks you a question you’ve answered before, an alternative, non-offensive response might be to simply answer the question as though it were the first time, without “Like I said…” on the front of it. Not only is this more polite, but it shows you are emotionally secure. An insecure person feels the need to point out that they answered the question already, lest anyone think they’re not on top of things.
I asked for help from friends and associates in coming up with more such phrases that harm relationships and kill businesses. Here are the top 10 commonly used phrases which, if you or anyone on your team is using, might be destroying your business, and you may not even know it. Included are loose translations of the phrases, and better alternative language to use.
1. “In my experience…” The rude translation is, “I know more than you,” or “My experience trumps yours.” Rather than making any statement, perhaps asking the question “Have you considered…” is the better way to go.
Submitted by Michon Ellis, LimeGreen
2. “But…” Use of this word effectively negates whatever preceded it. People use it when they want to sound as though they’re offering a balanced viewpoint, when the real objective is to set up the premise to knock it down. Example: “You may be right, but here’s what I think.” Translation: “You may be right, but you are not.” Solution? Leave the “but” out of it, and then ask a question. “You may be right. What about…?”
Submitted by Bill Gilliland, ActionCOACH
3. “That’s an idea!” Translation: That’s an idea…that we’ll never pursue. Better phrases might include “Interesting idea…is there a way for us to focus it a bit more?” or “That’s a great idea, let’s think through that together right now.” Rather than not pursuing the idea, pursue it, at least a bit. Who knows, what you were about to blow off as a useless idea might have some merit to it, or something might grow out of discussing it. Respect the person by respecting their idea enough to discuss it.
Submitted by Allison VanNest, Grammarly
4. “As you know…” We sometimes say this because we don’t want to come across at patronizing by saying something which we assume the other person already knows. But what if they don’t already know? We then come across as condescending. What the person thinks to themselves is “I guess I’m stupid, because I didn’t know that.” Instead, you can introduce a topic or piece of information as something you learned, for example “I just learned that…” allows you to share some information in a way that makes whoever you’re talking to feel knowledgeable if they already have the information you shared, and if they don’t they feel like they have a good excuse, since even you didn’t know this until recently.
Submitted by Michael W. Byrnes, Jr.
5. “Did you read/see/get my email?” This is often used as a defensive measure to escape blame but it can come across as condescending and could feel like you are calling the recipient out on being irresponsible. Instead, just give them the message again. If someone calls you out on not sending the email before, that’s the time to tell them you did. Maybe.
Submitted by Lori Bizzoco, Cupid’s Pulse
6. “Obviously…” Translation: “If it’s not obvious to you, like it is to me, then you must be a moron.” As with many of these phrases, this is doesn’t need an alternative so much as it can simply be left out. Whatever you’re going to say, just say it, and leave judgment about whether it’s obvious or not to others.
Submitted by Andi Enns
7. “I’ve been really busy.” Or in other words, “Other people/things were more important than getting back to you.” Instead, say “I’m so glad to get to talk with you now.”
Submitted by Dianne Sikel
8. “It’s not that complicated.” But if you think it is…well, then I guess you’re not so bright, are you? In an effort to tell someone something is easy, we may be making them feel stupid. This misunderstanding can easily occur between experienced professionals and new entrants to the workforce, or between highly technical employees and non-technical ones. Remember the computer support guy from SNL? It can be tricky handling this one because you need the person to understand, but you also need them to feel comfortable asking for assistance if they do not understand. It can require a high level of sensitivity and a deft sense of wording to walk this gauntlet, and no single alternative response will match every potential situation.
Submitted by Chris Kilbourn, TOFU Marketing
9. “Yes, I saw that…” This might be used when someone starts telling you about an email they received, which you were also copied on, or an article they just read. You don’t want to appear like you’re not in the know, and feel the need to, in effect, say “I am way ahead of you. Anything you’ve seen, I’ve already seen, and probably WAY before you.” Far better to say “Thanks so much! I appreciate you sharing this with me.”
Submitted by Ginger Jenks, Magellan Enterprises
10. “You should…” You should never use this phrase. See how reading that made you feel defensive? Using “should” brings almost a moral element to any situation, as if to say “You’re wrong, and a bad person.” It puts the one saying “You should…” automatically in the role of a superior, in essence saying “Because I’m good and smart and you’re bad and dumb and don’t know what you should do, I’m going to tell you…. ” Most people don’t like being told what to do. Suggesting alternative behaviors or asking questions that lead one to find their own solution generally work better.
Submitted by Lynda Zugec, The Workforce Consultants
If reading this list gives you an anxiety attack and prevents you from opening your mouth for the rest of the day because you’re worried you may be using one or more of these unintentionally, there are two things to bear in mind. First, these phrases aren’t always negative. I’m sure you can think of examples where using one of these phrases makes perfect sense and is not offensive, because it means something completely different in a positive context than when it’s used in a negative one. The second saving grace is that people can usually tell what you really mean. If you’re generally a kind person who treats each person as an individual rather than an object, an occasional slip up will most often go unnoticed. But like I said, in my experience you should obviously try to eliminate these phrases from your vocabulary when they can be interpreted negatively. As you know, it’s not that complicated.
Original article link here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2013/08/12/10-phrases-you-use-that-are-killing-your-business/