Small Words With Big Impact

Language is powerful. Just as any tool, it can work to our advantage, or it can have negative effects. We frequently use some small words without realizing the big impact they have (not always the desired one though) on other people’s behavior. 

We can express our thoughts in a more positive way by making some minor changes in the language we use. When you will start using the words below, you will notice that people are willing to listen to your feedback, they feel more confident and performance improves.

These words are:

  • Do (vs. don’t). Do you remember how many times you have been told as a kid NOT to do things? e.g. Don’t touch this. What did we do? We touched it. Similar habits apply in business. Most people prefer to phrase things in a negative and not specific way. Be different. Communicate what you want people to do. e.g. Say ‘I’d like you to be here 5 min before the meeting starts’ instead of ‘Don’t be late.’
  • And (vs. but). When we are given feedback, we are all waiting for the BUT. We don’t pay much attention to what is said before.We are trained to focus on the negatives. Remember this when you give feedback to people. You will have better results when you use the word AND instead.
  • When (vs. if). Imagine you say to your team: “If you manage to increase the sales by an additional 5% this month, I will treat you to a nice dinner.” Although it is a SMART objective, the word ‘if’ implies that the event might happen but you don’t really believe it. Let’s assume that you use the word when instead. The meaning of the sentence changes; You now communicate to your team that you believe it will happen.

There is another small word that can have a big impact particularly on ourselves.I want

  • Want (vs. should). This is my favorite. Are you aware how many times we use the word ‘should‘ in our every day life for both work and personal matters. It shows determination and sense of responsibility. It also shows lack of excitement or desire. I suggest we start using the word ‘want‘ instead. e.g. I want to learn Chinese vs. I should learn Chinese. Do you feel the difference?

The bottom line: Be aware of the impact the words you are using have on other people (and even on yourself). Minor changes can go a long way.

Are you aware of any other small words that have big impact? If yes, please share.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, coach and speaker. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.

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