What’s in a word?  Everything!  What are you saying to yourself and others?  The words that you use can give you power or take it away.  Here are some of my favorites for you to consider. 

Hope – Hope is one of the most un-empowering words around.  It allows you to believe you’re taking action, when, in reality, you’re taking no action at all.  A close cousin to this word is try.  Do you use hope and try to keep you from taking action? 

How many times have you heard from people – I’ll try to stop by, I hope I can make it…?  It is not a power position.  You will either do something or not do something.  Consider instead, I will be at your house at 10.  I will get the report done Thursday….  You are assertive, in control and powerful.  Replace the word hope and try with want and will.  When you say these things out loud you are in a position of power.  Success isn’t about hoping or praying that someone will make you successful.  It’s about deciding you want success and then making it happen.

Guilt – Many people carry around guilt as if it were a badge of honor.  We constantly berate ourselves for not being perfect, for not getting everything done, for not being at all the places we should be.  Besides making you feel miserable, guilt impedes your ability to function.  It causes you to lose focus.  Start accepting and taking ownership of your choices.  If you choose to stay at a meeting, delegate fixing a meal.  Understand and accept that you will make mistakes, not be perfect, etc.  Give yourself a break.

Sorry – This word can become an addiction.  When a colleague tells you about his or her woes, your response most likely will be I’m sorry.  We use this word so often, in so many ways and in so many contexts, it virtually has no meaning.  It’s just something we say, the iceberg lettuce of conversation, a kind of verbal filler.  Sometimes it becomes such a habit people start each sentence with Sorry….  Seldom are you referring to something you did wrong.  If you are truly apologizing, say it with deep regret – what happened, what you will do about it and what you’ll do to see that it doesn’t happen again.  Convey empathy through understanding such as, that must have been very difficult for you.

Do you have any words that drive you crazy?  Anything that conjures up nails on a chalkboard?  Share those words in the comments below.

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6 Responses to Words

  • When people apologize for things that had nothing to do with them, it seems phony when really it's probably just habit. I'm working to quash this habit with a couple of people I know. Thanks for bringing attention to it Holly!

  • I never thought of "hope" and "try" as un-empowering, but after reading your post you have convinced me!  Hmmm, I WILL (not try) to do some mental housecleaning on that one.
    Great job as always, Holly!  You are a beacon of clarity!

  • Suzanne O'Doherty says:

    Very true and often times, if you make the remark to people about the power of words, you hear responses such as "you are being fussy about the choice of words" , "you don't need that degree of accuracy in your choice of words" – but I disagree – I am truly in your camp Holly – that being said since I know I don't expect to be perfect – i cannot expect others to be.
    Thanks for your articles !

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