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Communication Skill: Top 7 Words to Change for Powerful Communication

By Susan Fee

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Every time you speak you create an impression and the words you use can subtly position you. Do you come across as a negative or positive person? Are you trustworthy? Judgmental? Do you follow through? Are you inflexible or open to all view points? It’s not so much what you say, but how you say it that counts. Here are seven common words that can create unintended, negative impressions, and what you can say instead.

  1. 1. But. Saying this word negates everything that preceded it. It makes you sound like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth: “I like you, but…” Replace it with “and” to make both sides of your sentence true: “I like you and…”

  2. 2. Try. Saying you’ll “try” to do something reveals a lack of commitment and causes others to mistrust you. It’s a verbal escape clause. There’s a huge difference between trying to do your best and doing your best. So, stop trying and just do it.

  3. 3. Should. Whether you say this in reference to yourself, or when telling others what they should do, it comes across as judgmental, critical and negative. Eliminate it all together.

  4. 4. Have to. Adults don’t like to be told what they have to do! The natural response is to resist and rebel. If you want cooperation offer options, choices, and suggestions. Allow others to be involved in the outcome rather than dictating it.

  5. 5. Always. Rarely is this word an accurate description of a person or situation. Using it makes you sound too extreme. It’s much safer to use words such as: sometimes, occasionally, or usually.

  6. 6. Never. Again, extreme language that categorically shuts down the other side. Instead, give specific examples, or replace it with “sometimes” or “occasionally.”

  7. 7. Obviously. Since each of us bases our opinions on our own perceptions, what’s obvious to you may not be true for others. Assuming so comes across as arrogant. Instead of making broad generalizations, own your message, “Based on what I’ve noticed it appears to me…”

Susan Fee is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Personal Business Coach, and Author specializing in communication skills. She is the authoer of Positive First Impressions: 83 Ways to Establish Confidence, Competence, and Trust. Contact Susan through her Web site:


Article Submitted On: November 16, 2004