In an interview, presentation, or meeting, what you don’t say has significant impact on how your message is received and remembered. In fact, it's often as important as what you do say. As an executive communications coach, I constantly remind our clients to avoid using words that distract, diminish, and derail the point they're making.
A few examples include the words but, actually, and honestly, as well as the phrases “We’re trying,” “We believe,” “To be honest,” and “What I can tell you is this ….”
These words and phrases are bad for business and often leave the reporter, the audience, your peers, and your customers to question the truth, relevance, and value of your statements. They also look horrible as attributed quotes in magazines and online.
For example, look at how these statements compare:
We’re trying to help our customers take advantage of the cloud.
We are helping our customers take advantage of the cloud.
Actually, our customers are our top priority.
Our customers are our top priority.
To be honest, it’s business as usual, and we’re having a great year.
It’s business as usual, and we’re having a great year.
I understand your business, but I’d like to know more about the challenges you face with customer service.
I understand your business and would like to know more about the challenges you face with customer service.
Words undermining your credibility
Another gotcha for MSPs to avoid in casual or corporate conversation is the simple word “so.” In 2014, one of the most widely read leadership articles in Fast Company was How a Popular Two-Letter Word Is Undermining Your Credibility. The article focused on how beginning a sentence with the little word "so" triggers your audience to note that what you’re about to say is different than what you’ve been talking about up until this point and very well may be rehearsed, a tad insulting, and not totally accurate.
The same holds true for “What I can tell you is this ….” Imagine saying that to your partner?! #FAIL It’s certainly not good for business, and it’s even worse for your personal life.
The takeaway: Be mindful of your words and the impact they have on the people you're engaging. What you don’t say often matters just as much as what you do say and how you say it.