By Annisa Essack
The year 2020 most definitively provided us with a new perspective on life in general, it also left a lasting impact on how we communicate, particularly the words we chose in our communications.
Terre Short, leadership coach and author of The Words We Choose: Your Guide to How and Why Words Matter says that the year minimised and diminished our choices. 2021 mustn’t be with a vocabulary that perpetuates the experience.
Choosing the right words has never been more important now, especially as we are more in tune with each other than before. Choosing words that are more impactful and inspirational can move us forward to creating a more hopeful and proactive path forward, and we can change the outcome of 2021.
These are some phrases and words that we should leave behind:
Just two letters but “if” casts doubt and is vague. In most circumstances, it can easily be replaced with “when”, which is hopeful. “If” on the other hand, creates apprehension and comes from a place of burden.
“I think”, a justifier which introduces uncertainty. Using “I think”, suggests a lack of confidence, knowledge, and ownership and inserts doubt. Instead, remove “I think” and proceed with the rest of the thought or whatever comes next. This will project more confidence using your message.
When used as an adverb, “just” is a great minimiser, meaning “barely” or “only”, especially when referring to yourself and your position. When saying “I’m just a Mom” it chips away at your sense of self and minimisers your contribution and worth in the eyes of another. “Just” adds no value.
Enough! At times, it is acceptable to use, but there is no need to settle for sufficiency in 2021. Using “enough” offers a sense of mediocrity, and it limits you. This year we should want more than just enough.
Choosing “should” suggests a burden or obligation and “have to” is similar. Rather choose “I get to”, moves away from the burden. And comes from a place of gratitude for the effort.
The constant uncertainty during the pandemic has created a need for clarity and accountability and adding the word “might” does not provide either. “Might” comes from a place of apprehension, and you need to consider why that is. If the apprehension serves no purpose, try a more assertive word choice, such as ‘I will’ or “We will.”
“I’m pretty certain I can reach my goal” – “Pretty” is the adverb is unnecessary and diminishes the message put forth. In 2021, we need to move beyond hedging, so if you are unsure, rather clarify the degree of uncertainty, say instead “I’m 80% sure that I can reach my goal.”
Most times we associate “but” with a negative follow up and that cannot be more true. “But” severs anything the precedes it and even derails the message. By offering “and” instead of “but”, we extend the conversation and move forward collaboratively, which means we move together positively.
If anything, 2020 taught us that we were capable of reframing almost anything, whether it was where we worked, how we worked, etc. Using the phrase “there is nothing I can do about it” we are throwing our hands up and choosing to be a victim. We insert a lack of control when instead the focus should be on what we can do.
Telling someone “You don’t understand” limits you from access and openness to another perspective. It is a phrase that serves no purpose. Every person has their own unique experiences, or you may just think that you know better. Instead, it would be better to move forward and open yourself to new opportunities. Invite other peoples’ perspectives, as it is our collective understanding and experiences that propel us forward.
So, to get the hang of this, first recognise yourself in these words and phrases. Choose the top three that have become a part of your lexicon and firmly commit to leaving them out. You may experience a little stuttering and stopping as you speak but do not be afraid to keep practising. It will cause you to pause, but we could all pause a little more this year.
Choosing your words with intention, allows you to abandon the minimising and limiting of your potential. But you will represent yourself as confident and certain. More importantly, you can be an inspiration to others.