Words Matter in Business Communication


There is power in words, more power than some understand. The way you use your words can work to either enhance your business or words that you use can harm your business. If you are an entrepreneur, business owner or someone fully engaged in the success of your career, it is important to be mindful of the words you use. If this sounds a little “woowoo,” let me explain why words really do matter.

You can see just how much words matter as you watch marketing machines change vernacular to put a spin on a situation. The words they choose to use can change situations in the listener or reader’s mind. For example, a recent plane incident on a runway in Turkey the press release stated that the “flight had a Runway Excursion Incident during landing…” A far more innocuous, less ominous statement than saying the plane skidded off the runway and landed nose down, hanging precariously on the side of the cliff a mere 737 feet from the Black Sea.

Speaking negatively and doubtfully only adds impediments to success. Just as you should be mindful of your thoughts, you should choose your words carefully in any communication, either written or verbal. There are words that should be avoided, if at all possible, in business. Here is my list:

Can’t This should top anyone’s list. Once you have put in your mind that something can’t be done, you set up that there will not be an attempt at whatever it is being asked of you. But don’t use my next words either…

Try to… This gives you an escape from actually putting in that extra effort to make something happen.

Busy Your customers are not interested in knowing that you are not solely devoted to servicing them. While they know this to be a fact, they don’t want to hear you verbalize it. Avoid the words.

Impossible Really? Is that task or situation that far out of reach? Give an honest assessment and even say that it is outside the scope of what you do, but don’t use the limiting word impossible. Circumstances may change that make it possible.

Wait Waiting may be a reality in certain situations, but your customers don’t want to hear that. Give a specific time frame to the situation such as what many automated answering services give now when you call customer service. Far better to say “Your call will be answered in approximately 5 minutes (or whatever the time frame)” than for a customer to be waiting without any idea of how long that wait will be. That leads to frustration, hang ups and a general dislike for the company.

Tomorrow This is a word that habitual procrastinators use to fool themselves into thinking they will do a tasks that could have been done today. The saying “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” still stands.

These are just a few of the words that can have a negative impact and send a message you don’t intend. Choose words that produce action – positive action – in the present, not projected sometime in the future. That means when writing, limit the use of the word “to be.” Again, this is very passive and does not set up a positive outcome in your mind nor in the mind of the listener or reader. Using an active voice eliminates “wiggle room” or ambiguity in the listener or reader.

Be mindful and focus on using positive language. Change the way you use negative or limiting words. Better yet, don’t use them at all. Words matter when it comes to having or establishing a positive mindset in your customers and colleagues.


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