You might say, “It’s just a word!” And I’ll respond, “I’m in the little things mean a lot business, and what you say to others AND yourself makes a difference.

Two words can mean the same thing. Yet one word choice brings out the worst and the other creates positive energy.

Words to avoid and why

Negative word: nervous vs Positive word: excited

In a past blog about handling public speaking anxiety I share a study on changing your self-talk from “I’m nervous” to “I’m excited”. This study proves that this slight tweak will improve your speaking confidence. After all, your body does the same adrenaline dance for both “nervous” and “excited”; but your head game goes in a better direction using “excited”.

Negative word: fee vs Positive word: investment

You are in sales! You may be the CEO, or the General Counsel, or the CFO and your sales team is in another department… but you are always selling. Rather than talk about “fees” for your clients, use the word “investment”. My clients hear the following phrase: “Your project investment is xx.” They never hear the word, “fee”.

Other positive vs negative word connotation examples

  • Easygoing vs Lazy
  • Confident vs Arrogant
  • Value driven vs Cheap
  • Curious vs Nosy
  • Dedicated vs Stubborn

Bonus negative/positive word choice

Holocaust survivor & Texan of the Year in 2019, Max Glauben (of blessed memory), inspired this blog. His recent obituary shares that he helped co-found the Dallas Holocaust Museum, originally housed in the basement of the Jewish Community Center (JCC).

I was on the Board of the Dallas Holocaust Museum for 16 years and I hated one of the words in the above paragraph. And everyone on the board knew it!

Don’t say “basement”, say “lower level”!

So, for the record, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, now a beautiful & meaningful stand-alone museum in Dallas’ historic West End, originated on the lower level of the JCC.

Can you add to this word choice list?

Think about your word choices and respective connotations. What words enhance or detract from your message? Your word choice makes a difference to your listeners and YOU.

Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and is value driven (not cheap)

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© 2022 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved

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