Power Words - 

                Selecting words to enhance your image


Like the clothes you wear, the words you chose paint a picture of how you view yourself. The receiver of your communications (especially in print where you cannot be seen nor heard) judges you based upon the selection of those words. In telephone conversations, your choice of language must not only grab and hold attention in the first 10 seconds but also exude knowledge and trust. Too often the words or phrases we use sabotage or diminish the impact of our message.

Out of the millions of words in the English language, the following words and phrases have the greatest chance of poisoning what you are saying and making the listener think less of you.

Using the motivation killer word: Should

This word makes you sound weak. It infers that what you are going to do is either not what you really want to do or that you'd be better off doing something else. It's a passive word, and when people hear it they feel you are proclaiming to the world that you agree on one course of action that would be appropriate, but you'd rather do the exact opposite. Or that you know exactly what you need to do to make things better and you haven't started yet! Psychologically, it poisons your own motivation and ambitions whenever you think of your goals as "shoulds". Replace it with the word "will" and see how the power starts flowing!


In any form of communication, using these two words, "believe" (as in I believe) and "hopefully" will weaken your position. For example, saying "I believe the solution is..." makes it a personal opinion. Leaving out the word "believe" and stating affirmatively "The solution is..." presents it as a fact.

The word hopefully is at its most destructive when you are trying to be persuasive or convincing. No one pays you to hopefully get something done! Instead state what you WILL achieve/do. People don't want to feel you are full of hope, they want to feel confident that YOU are confident in your ability to carry out your actions.

Using words that ask permission

When you are conducting business, asking for permission takes away any authority you have. Starting your sentences with "May I," "Could I," "Can I," along with tacking on "Please" makes you sound like a child begging its parent for candy. State simply what you require, and end with a cordial "please." This puts you in the driver's seat and earns you respect.

Any word that reeks of an apology

"Sorry" and "Just" are the two most offensive words in this category. Eliminate sorry unless you are truly making an apology. "Just" creates the inference that what you are saying is not important and you are apologizing for inconveniencing the other person to have to attend to your communication.

Flabby, tentative words

Phrases such as "would like to" "might be able to" "helped out" all make you sound weak. Use action words that accurately describe what can do or will do. Action words make you a doer. Doers get jobs done. 

Using Cliché and buzzwords

People are jaded by cliché buzzwords such as trouble-shooter or success-oriented. They are instant turn-offs and tune-out words.

Also, peppering your sentences with "Ah," "Oh," "Like," "Sure," or any other word that has no real use in a sentence (just listen to a teenager and you'll see what I mean!) makes you sound less intelligent.

Using defeatist words:

If you continually use defeatist words you will defeat yourself before you even start. These words not only send out negative messages but also program you internally for failure. The following shows some defeatist phrases and how they can be turned into more positive ones:

Defeatist   Powerful
"I have to" "I choose to"
"I might" "I will"
"Maybe" "Certainly"
"I can't" "I can"
"I don't know" "I'll find out"
"I'll think about it" "Let me give it some thought"

Sometimes it is not just the word itself but the choice between 2 different words that can add or subtract power from what you say.

For example, in "Friendliness is a salesman's best asset," you replace "friendliness" with "a smile". The new sentence reads, "A smile is a salesman's best asset." Friendliness conveys too many things, and is ambiguous. However, the word smile always has a positive connotation, everyone is won over by a smile, and the word can easily be visualized. 

The old adage says "the pen is mightier than the sword." In your communications, make sure your words are sharp like daggers, not dull like butter knives!

                                                                        © 2006 Leona M Seufert