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Those Words can Cost you Dearly

A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words… the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt. 
Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer.

Do you know that those words you speak at work can cost you dearly if you are not careful?  We seldom pay attention to our speech habits without thinking how germane it is to our career growth.

Don’t be surprised if you are making less at work with wealth of knowledge  if you lack how to sell that knowledge to your superior. I always believe that it’s not necessarily knowledge itself, but rather knowledge to sell knowledge wins hands down.

These speech habits create ambiguity, stress and many times conflict that should not have taken place if I had been conscious about the words that I speak and impact it creates.

Senator George Allen — once aspired to be a Republican Presidential nominee — had to pay dearly for having “Macaca moment“.

Words can cost you dearly at work or at your business if you do not use them in proper context.

  • Don’t be Wishy-Washy; be Confident

I have a habit of injecting wishy-washy words in my conversations. I often use phrases like  I wish or I hope or I think. few days ago, a friend complimented me on my blog and my instant response was, “I hope that it will be successful.” Duh ? Am I confident or just wishy-washy ? It portrays an image of low self-esteem.

  • Don’t be sorry unless you truly are

I went to a nearby subway yesterday. I heard a gentleman in front of me saying, “I am sorry to bother you, but I think I like a veggie on wheat.” You are sorry to pay for the sandwich that you are not sure you wanted to eat ? Don’t litter your speech with qualifiers! There is a legitimate usage of apologies when you spill beans or rear end a car, but being sorry for every thing makes you look miserable.

  • Do not speak if you don’t know 

This is another self-deprecating, lethal word to speak. I was talking to a  friend of mine who is a political junkie. He knows what he is talking about. So, I asked him to articulate major issues for the Presidential contenders. He, at length,  talked about all the major issues that matter most to Americans. I was moving my respect bar up for his political savvy,  and all of sudden he said, “It’s going to be an interesting race, I don’t know,” my respect bar fell like a crashing 747. Are you telling me that with finesse you explained what matters most to  Americans,  but you don’t know ? Give me a break!

  • Don’t use fillers, I will lose my thriller

I have a friend who has bad habit of using too many filler words —  You know; Um; Ah;Do you know what I mean;Like etc. Use of filler words too often shifts attention from the gist of the topic to these filler words. I visited a car dealer with my friend last month to look for a used Lexus. He said, “You know, I am looking for a used but reliable Lexus. You know, it should have less than 30K miles. You know, it should have GPS system. Do you know what I mean ?” Salesman laughed at him and said,  “Do you know what you mean ?” It was embarrassing moment for him.

  • Never use “You” turns ever!

Using “You” in a sentence interjects strong apathy — attacking verbal anecdote — that no one appreciates. It’s hard to win anyone’s heart without creating harmony and mutual respect. It’s as easy to interject “I” or “We” instead of “You” and get the message across with more firepower. I was at the local Sam’s club to return merchandise last week. I noticed that my line was long so I, naturally, tried to listen to the conversation. Customer was saying,  “I am mad that you guys opened the door at 10 AM, but I was not allowed to get in.” Customer service fired back, “You are wrong. We open the door at 10 AM for the business members only.” “I don’t care,”  customer replied.

These minor speaking glitches make you harder to understand, less assertive and can even make you sound stupid.

Try to analyze — for several weeks — every word you speak to improve your speech habits. You may not know, but your speaking glitches are costing you dearly my dear.

If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words. ——– Chinese Proverb

(Photo courtesy: Politico)

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Comments (21)

I’m not certain that I agree completely with your points for not saying you are sorry or admitting you don’t know something. In some cases it can be very powerful to apologize (especially with customers) or to admit you don’t know (assuming you follow up with “I will find out for you”). I think in many cases the use of these two fall back on your first point “Don’t appear wishy washy”. If you can take control of a situation using an apology or the admission that you don’t know something it can work in your favor.

I agree with you. It’s always wise to apologize for genuine mistakes, but apologizing for no reason can work against you. Some of these words make perfect sense if situation justifies their usage.

I was going to say that I do agree with you on this point! Of course, I didn’t think you meant customer service…that’s different. Sometimes, you have to swallow humble pie and yea yea the customer is always right. Always! I do know that I’ve had a problem in the past, though, about saying “I’m sorry” for no reason. I was very shy in school and would say “I’m sorry” for everything to the point where it would annoy people. “I’m sorry for interrupting, but…” “I’m sorry for disagreeing…” “I’m sorry for my appearance…” “…my messy house…” etc etc. I try to be less annoying these days :) Nope, not sorry about my messy house. I got kids!

Michelle, I agree with you about the usage of the phrase “I am sorry” in different context. There’s nothing wrong in addressing a customer with that phrase, but it annoys people in your personal life when they keep hearing same phrase over and over for no reason. :)

another great topic here, Shilpan.

The English language boasts an exceptionally large vocabulary. It is a precision tool.

unfortunately, few know how to use it. Many times I’ve had to decide, is this person simply unskilled with the tool or actually just stupid. A disservice to them and a time waster for me.

most disturbingly, the vast majority of people seem content with their own imprecise language and that of others.

my view is this is a root cause of many interpersonal conflicts.

Agreed. English is a wonderful language, but it requires careful usage of words in proper context to avoid ambiguity.

Shilpan – You make an excellent point about our verbal expression. Over the years, I found myself making many of the same mistakes that you mentioned. Since then, I have become more careful about what comes out of my mouth. If we don’t pay close attention to what we say, it can hurt us not only at work, but in many other areas of our lives, as well. Great post!

Anthony, our verbal vices can indeed cost us dearly not only in our professional, but also personal relationships.

I desperately need to practice these things. I am usually pretty good with talking to colleagues, but my boss is so intimidating that I sound like a wishy washy little girl around her.

Daisy, you are not alone. We all have fear when it comes to dealing with certain individuals. I think the key is to shift focus from that person to your strengths. And, you will slowly feel comfortable talking to that person.

Speaking of using the wrong phrase, the use of Etch-a-sketch analogy in Romney’s campaign sent the shares of that company soaring!

One man’s misery is another company’s fortune!

Words carry a lot of power!

MC, words indeed carry a lot of power!

It’s fortunate that I get to communicate to everyone through my written words (which I get to revise and edit) rather than through spoken voice. I am guilty of many of the issues you point out here. But out of all of these lessons, I would have to agree with the statement that it is better to have knowledge to sell or just knowledge. I have observed this not only in my own career but in many successful people around me. It comes back to the statement that it is not necessarily what you know but what you can do with it.

You’ve hit the nail on the head. I also have observed that highly successful people not only know their niche well, but also extremely good at transcending that knowledge to higher ups so that business can make good decisions and profit from that knowledge.

read somewhere that Talking is a the greatest trouble maker so one should be very careful with his words. Choosing the right word becomes tough for me sometimes especially while writing blog comments

Great post :)

I remember working with a guy that was so intimidating and I constantly found myself saying I’m sorry to him. He finally asked me why I constantly did that and I was too nervous to tell him.

My biggest pet peeve is fillers. Teenagers that include the word like at least 3 or 4 times in each sentence. That drives me nuts!

Sicorra, I’ve noticed that my daughter keeps using ‘like’ word so often. I now start counting my fingers when she uses that word so that is aware of it. And it has helped her control her speaking habits. :)

this seems a universal battle with too few parents fighting the good fight.

We have, mostly, cured our daughter with constant reminders, but the vast majority of her friends still have the disease.

And it’s, like, you know, like, a real, like, problem. You know?

Agreed. When I hear their conversation, I noticed that most young kids speak these vice words so often without thinking much.

[…] Shilpan at Street Smart Finance wrote a post Those Words can Cost you Dearly […]

I have fallen victim of my words few times and I learnd the lessons on my own flesh. It’s not pleasant at all. Since then I decided practicing EQ. It helped me in so many ways and specifically when controlling what goes out of my mouth and what stays.