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Friday, August 12, 2011

Kick "But" (And More)

At the conclusion of a recent coaching conversation, the person I was coaching decided she needed to begin using more powerful language. I suggested she start by reducing some of the qualifying words and equivocal statements I'd frequently heard her use during our time together. I said "Why not start by kicking the 'but' out of your sentences?" Replace a sentence like "I have an idea but I'm not sure how it will fly" with "I have an idea I want to implement immediately." Which words or phrases do you use that weaken your message?

How about this: "I'd like to...." Or... the word only as in "I'm 'only' thinking out loud", etc. Or... "Do you know what I mean?", especially when that sentence has a plaintive ending. When you really pay close attention to how people speak, it's amazing how many of us sabotage our own message, i.e. our "buts" get in our way. Over time, especially in the workplace, the cumulative effect of using language that is not powerful can lead others to minimize our input or worse, to ignore us while those who speak without as much qualifying language are said to have "charisma". And it happens largely on a unconscious level. Each of us begin acting toward others (powerful or powerless) based on how we've internalized the words they use and the way they use them.

What has been your experience with this? Does a but ever get in your way? Which word or phrase can you begin using less frequently to help make your language more powerful?

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