Don’t let it get you down

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By Jacquelyn Smith for Business Insider, Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 11:09AM EDT 19 hours ago

“Why you should never say these 3 common words at work”

“Your work is great, but …”

You may remember the old playground adage in grade school: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Unfortunately, says Darlene Price, “this saying does not apply in the workplace.”

Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results,” says words, poorly and unconsciously chosen, can indeed harm your credibility, relationships, and opportunities for career advancement.

“Words matter,” she explains. “They are a key component of persuasive communication. Regardless of the audience, topic, or industry, or whether the setting is a stand-up presentation, sit-down conversation, telephone discussion, or an online meeting, a leader uses language to influence someone’s mind in order to achieve a certain result. That’s one reason they’re seen as leaders; their words compel people to follow. ”

When you want to influence others to see something your way, deliberately choose to speak words that are empowering to others and avoid words that are jeopardizing to your message and credibility, she advises. Three common words to consider dropping: “but,” “fine,” and “try.”

Here’s why:


“But” is a good word if you’re aiming to express “on the contrary,” Price says.

For example, “My boss went to the conference, but I remained at the office.” Here, the word “but” opposes and negates the clause that comes before it indicating a dissimilar notion.

Now, imagine it your significant other said to you, “Honey, I love you, but …” Or if your boss said to you, “You’re doing a great job, but …” “This powerful conjunction puts a damper on the preceding positive clause,” she explains. “Similarly, imagine if a potential customer heard a salesperson say, ‘Our product is fast, easy, and affordable, but … we don’t have any units in stock until December.’ In this case, the word ‘but’ creates a negative that didn’t exist before.”

Hear the difference when you replace the “but” with “and”: “Our product is fast, easy, and affordable, and we’ll have units available in December.

“If you want to keep the tone positive and motivate others to act, replace ‘but’ with ‘and,'” she suggests.

Eduhonesty: I am writing this post for the newbies and the weary. Someone in educational administration classes has been teaching this technique of “this was great, but I wonder why you did this.” The academic coaches in my school used this structure virtually without fail last year. For example, you might receive a note that said, “I loved how you motivated your students with the superhero opener, but I wonder why you did not immediately provide feedback on their results. Immediate feedback helps students learn.” Academic coaches might waltz into the classroom at any time and, after all, they were academic coaches. Their job was to find something to improve wherever they went.

Academic coaches are there to fix you and some of them will fix you good. (O.K., that’s a bit snarky, I admit. The coaches did have the best of intentions.)

The problem with that yes-but structure is that a teacher can end up feeling that he or she is always screwing up somehow. If you are confronting those “yes-buts,” don’t let it get you down. It’s a stupid way to motivate people. Linking the good and less-good tends to water down any positive feelings that might be created by the initial praise. In the end, coaching interactions can seem like nonstop criticism because of clumsy wording like the above. Personally, I’d try giving solid positive feedback and then coming back with suggestions at a later time so that a little, unadulterated praise might happen sometime, somewhere. But that good-then-bad structure has made its way into business and education schools and not everyone teaching the technique teaches the subtleties that make it work.

I suspect this technique is especially hard on many newbies. If a teacher already feels insecure, those “buts” may make teaching competency seem unreachable. It’s not. We can all always improve, of course.

Eduhonesty: Don’t let an overload of helpful advice scare you. Try what they suggest. See if it works. If it works, show it off the next time a coach or helpful administrator enters the room. If it doesn’t work, ask the administrator or coach for advice. Then go have a margarita with friends or bake a batch of cookies with your kids.