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Words Matter: How to Avoid Disconnect

Tailor your verbal feedback to represent yourself positively and productively


Whether it is your inside or outside voice, what you say to yourself and others deserves considerable thought.

As someone who occasionally opens his mouth before it is connected to his brain, I can vouch for the challenges this disconnect can cause.

A fellow executive coach whom I greatly respect recently said something interesting to me: He was on a mission to eradicate "no" language from the leaders he worked with, including:

That doesn't work

I'm not good at that

That's not possible

We can't raise prices

I can't

He then asked for his clients to replace such statements with comments like: "In the past..."

Do you see the difference?

"In the past, I wasn't courageous enough to try that," is much different than saying: "That won't work." Or perhaps this: "In the past, I avoided tough conversations," which is considerable different than: "I'm not good at conflict."

I bet you often make these three negative statements that prevent you from getting climbing the ladder. This activity can help you identify them:

Over the next week, develop a consciousness around those situations where you feel defensive, angry or confused and write them down. At the end of the week, look at them and identify the underlying thought (words) that created the situation. Then flip it and identify what the opposing thought is. Is it possible that this thought might be more correct or at least partially correct?

You might flip: I'm not good at conflict," to "I"m not experienced at these situations," or "In the past, I avoided these situations." The next steps are much different based on what your words are. If you say, "I'm not good at ..." the logical thing might be to avoid it in the future. If you say, "I'm not experienced at..." the next step might be to gain some understanding and experience.

Life throws many challenges in our path. There's no need to create them on our own.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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