Word Choice



"We are a master of the words we think,
and a slave to the words we speak."
~Zen saying


I speak for a living. Words are my bread and butter. And even I have problems with word choice when it comes to dealing with conflict in the workplace. While we can't possibly control everything that comes out of our mouths, there are some words to AVOID and a way to practice a conversation if we know it's coming.



*Word to Avoid When Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers*

But, However, Although

These are actually all the same word. It is the use of one of these words that negates anything said prior to them. It sounds something like this:

"You're doing a really good job here, but...."

The listener automatically knows that what you said prior to the BUT is not true, or less true, than what you are about to say. It angers people because it feels manipulative (and that's probably because it is an attempt to manipulate better reception of your negative comment).

What to say instead? AND. "You're doing a really good job here AND here are some things you could do even better..." Makes all the difference.

Never and Always

These words are absolutes, and they diminish a person's inherent complexity when used to describe behaviors. It sounds like this:

"You are NEVER on time....You are ALWAYS late..."

This starts an argument, because this isn't true. You aren't using facts, you are essentially name-calling. If you need to discuss someone's behavior, it would behoove you to use FACTS or DATA instead of ABSOLUTES. This conversation may sound like:

"You have been late four out of the last five days..."

Now, we can have a factual conversation instead of borderline slander.


Practicing Difficult Conversations

If you have the luxury of knowing a difficult conversation is coming your way, there are two ways to practice (and practice you must---going over this in your head in the car on the way in to work is NOT practice).

1. Have a mock conversation with someone you trust. It has to be someone you trust, because this is going to be embarrassing and it needs to be kept confidential. But if you have someone who can role-play the difficult co-worker in question, you have got yourself some workplace gold. Mine it.

2. Write it out. When we write long-hand (doesn't work using the computer), we engage our left and right brain simultaneously---creative meets logical. Powerful stuff. You may not say everything exactly as you wrote it when the actual conversation happens, but your odds are greatly increased, and as a side bonus, you relieve a lot of pent-up negativity in the process.

You may have certain words that get you riled. I know I am personally not a fan of the response, "Whatever." Do you have a phrase or word that upsets you? Share it below in the comments section so we all can benefit (and avoid their use in the future):
More on dealing with difficult co-workers?

Tone of Voice
Body Language
Mindset/Attitude
Listening Skills


Another solution? 60 Ways to Deal with a Pain in the Butt @ Work. Quick, insightful ideas for dealing with a difficult co-worker or boss. Guaranteed.




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