Use Words That Build Success — Page 2 of 2


That is why professionals capable of inspiring confidence in others are highly valued. Of course, a large part of the confidence has to do with the speaker’s track record and abilities, but often, much of it has to do with the way her thoughts are dressed.

“I think we might be able to come up with a way to take care of that,” isn’t nearly as reassuring as “We’ll take care of you.”

“Don’t hold us to it, but we’re seeing what we can do about meeting those projections,” isn’t the same as, “We’ll move heaven and earth for you.”

The easiest way to enhance the confidence level of a sentence is to eliminate fudge phrases, the words like “I think”, “We feel”, “in our opinion”, “assuming things go smoothly”, “under present circumstances” and so forth. “Might”, and “may” are other common fudge words that serve no purpose but to introduce doubt and mistrust. Remember that any statement you make is only as good as your ability to deliver. That’s why it isn’t necessary to stimulate further insecurities by couching your promises or statements in weasel words or fudge phrases. If you don’t come through, the fact that you had covered your promise with weasel words won’t save your credibility. On the other hand, assuming you don’t make a habit of making promises you are unlikely to be able to deliver on, by showing confidence you not only add to the reassurance and comfort level of the listener, you add to your own sense of confidence.

Personalize the promises or representations by adding words like “for you”. By showing that you are making a personal commitment to the listener, you are adding to the listener’s sense that you care about him. It marks you out as a person who isn’t afraid to go to bat for his clients or colleagues while those who always insist on couching every statement in lawyerly impersonality makes the other party feel as though he should be suspicious, not a good feeling for someone on the other side of a professional promise or commitment.

If you truly can’t feel ready to make a commitment, simply say, “Let me check on it and get back to you.” You are making no commitment at all, merely promising to see whether you can make a commitment. That preserves your credibility.

4. Color: Use words that paint pictures.

Why do some people’s words make us perk up while those of others make us yawn? Because some use words that paint vivid mental pictures and engage our emotions while others use hackneyed phrases leached of all life and color. Good writers and speakers know that people are engaged and aroused by the concrete and the vivid and turned off by the abstract and the colorless.

“This vehicle can transport five large passengers in comfort and luxury,” isn’t as engaging as “This sports sedan can pamper five linemen in buttery leather and concert-hall sound.” You can feel the buttery leather and imagine concert-hall sound. “Comfort and luxury” is meaningless except on a vague, general level devoid of emotional content.

“Our institution offers a high quality educational experience calculated to enhance your child’s prospects of obtaining admission into the nation’s most prestigious universities,” isn’t as cogent as “Our school graduates students who get acceptance letters from top colleges.” The closer your words come to painting a picture of the key concept, the more they will engage and win over your audience.

“Considerations of our organizational priorities in light of improved economic conditions prompt us to recommend these proposals to increase sales,” is just a mealy-mouthed way of saying, “Here’s how we make hay while the sun shines.”

Too many of us go through school believing that long abstract words are the way to sound smart and well-read. The truth is, it takes far more intelligence and clear thinking to put thoughts into simple language that produce an emotional impact on others. Except in the most technical scientific or legal contexts, if you can’t say it with short, colorful words, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about. Prev

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