Activity: Listen To Your Words


Pay attention to the words you speak in the coming day or two and see if the words and phrases you use in everyday speech are revealing more about you than you had thought.

For starters, you should be cautious of the word, “just”. This word suggests you have a poor opinion of yourself; that you have low self-esteem, and you aren’t living up to your potential. All that from one single word? How is that possible you ask? Look at these two sentences:

  1. I’m a Receptionist.
  2. I’m just a Receptionist.

The first three word sentence is an assertion or statement of fact; I am a Receptionist. The second sentence on the other hand, with the insertion of a single word four letters in length, ceases to become a statement of assertion and pride. Now you are implying that the position of Receptionist in your view is a lowly one, and it almost comes out like an apology; “I’m sorry but I’m just a Receptionist.”

By the way, don’t get hung up on the title of Receptionist. This has the same impact if you say, “I’m just a Line Cook”, I’m just a Manager”, “I’m just a Musician.” You can’t utter the sentence with the word, “just”, inserted and not have it sound like you are downgrading both the position and yourself.

Another word that creeps in silently but betrays you if you use it is the word, “if”. Suppose you are job searching. You might catch yourself saying, “If I get an interview…”, “If I get a job…” The far more assertive statement is, “When I get an interview…” When I get a job…” Removing the word, “if” and substituting it with the word, “when” changes your sentence from a possibility to a certainty. “When I get an interview”, communicates your belief that it’s not up for debate whether you will or won’t get an interview, it’s just a question of time. The word, “if” suggests you might get an interview but you might not – you’re not sure.

Another word I see many people use in their cover letters that betrays them is the word, “believe”. Now if that word stood alone, it’s a good word, and has been used successfully by many people as their creed or motto. It implies that if you believe, then what you want will come about. Fine. However, watch the word in action in the following sentence and tell me now how it changes your perception of someone’s self-confidence: “I believe I am the right candidate for this position.” The way this could be read is that you believe it but it may not be the case. Remove the first two words of that sentence and you get, “I am the right candidate for this position.” That’s assertiveness – not aggressiveness or boasting; it’s a claim you’re making and you then back it up with examples of that market yourself positively.

There is a slang word that has slipped into everyday language so frequently, a growing number of people don’t even know that using it reveals them when they speak. They continue to use it which can suggest a limited vocabulary which in turn could suggest a low education – possibly less than grade 12. The word is, “youse”. “Youse have a great company”, “I’d like to work with youse guys.” The word doesn’t exist; stop using it.

Did you notice in the last example I used the word, “guys”? I find it amusing and interesting that someone can speak to a group of men and women, or indeed a group of women exclusively, and then say, “I’ll see you guys later.” Save the word, “guys” for males. Consider using, “people”, or “all”, or even just remove the word, “guys”. “I’ll see you later.”

The use of the word, “guys” indicates a familiarity or friendship when used in the context above. You may not find that using it in all situations is appropriate or welcomed. “I’d like to work for you guys”, doesn’t communicate a professional respect for the employees you are speaking with. It detracts from your self-marketing and you may actually create the opposite impact on your listeners where they want to distance themselves from you and the assumption of casualness you are making. Next you’ll be telling the interview, “I’ll be waiting for your call pal.” DON’T DO IT! I’M KIDDING.

Finally, try to catch yourself using or forgetting to say the words, “please” and, “thank you”.  When someone does something for you – anything from opening a door, being your reference or granting you an interview, express your thanks. No gushing suggested, no boot-licking, just common personal and professional courtesy. If you request something of someone, use the word, “please.” “Would you please stand as a reference for me?” Could we move the meeting to Monday please?” “Is it possible to have an afternoon interview please?”

Language skills are vitally important to how others perceive you; they are a part of your brand. Your use of words can accelerate your career or hold you back, prompt a job interview or keep you from meeting with an interviewer.

Listen to yourself and listen to others around you. Language is a learned skill. Work on getting some words out of your vocabulary and other words in. Like anything else, you can improve on your language skills with practice.

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One thought on “Activity: Listen To Your Words

  1. These are very good reminders. I especially identify with using the word if. I can understand being positive in saying “when I get an interview” in context with the job search as a whole, but I have difficulty in being that positive about an interview with any one single employer. I could get an interview with that employer or I may not get an interview.

    Like

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