As some readers know, in our Member Services department we conduct regular coaching calls with our Members. On these calls, we discuss goal setting and project plans and progress made towards them. During these goal-related conversations, it’s not uncommon for us to hear what we consider to be self-limiting or counter-productive language. The funny thing is, we often don’t hear ourselves saying these words nor do we realize the negative impact they can have on our progress towards our goals, and even others around us.
Here are a few examples of these less than productive words or phrases that can put a major damper on your forward progress. Now keep in mind, I’m referring to conversations surrounding projects and declared goals, I’m not referring to casual conversations or brainstorming meetings. These principals may also apply in those conversations as well, so if you hear yourself replying with the following responses, try to catch yourself and instead flip them into more definitive and commitment-oriented language.
Not Possible, Can’t or Won’t – This “no possible way” language leaves zero room to consider what could be possible. Try instead responding with “tell me more,” “what would it look like if,” or “what would it take to.” This will help open the door for more creative thought and input from others to see things in ways you may not have imagined.
Might, Maybe, I Hope, If I Have Time or I’ll Try – Flip this passive, non-committal language instead to when you Will take action on an item or multiple items.
Soon or Someday – If you are not sure when you will complete an entire project, consider committing to certain parts of it by a specific date. This could be outlining the scope of the plan and adding deadlines to those steps. Don’t forget to declare those deadlines with others who can keep you accountable to your commitment.
Sounds easy, right? Well, if it were, many of us wouldn’t be so adept at deflecting these commitment inducing conversations. It happens to the best of us. But for a moment, let’s stop and consider how this language filters into other’s perceptions of us. When we use ambiguous language, are we being seen as someone who can be counted on and honors our word? Or are we instead seen as uncertain, uninterested or not dependable?
Consider too what tone it sets for our teams. What may seem like harmless words, can in fact permeate your team’s culture and create a counterproductive environment if it goes unrecognized. Is this how we want others on our team to show up for each other? Does this language prevent momentum from occurring because the team is uncertain about the overall level of commitment? Do they question how much energy and interest they should invest as a result?
So if you are using similar language with your team, think about the message it sends to them. You could essentially be giving them permission to have similar responses to you, or it could spill over into conversations with your clients. How confident will your clients be in your services if they hear “I’ll try to respond by tomorrow.”
So why do we sometimes find ourselves using this non-committal language? Perhaps it is fear of letting someone down. If we don’t commit, we can’t be accountable thus we won’t look bad, right? Or maybe there is a learning curve that is getting in the way of our confidence to get something done. Or perhaps we know the likelihood of actually being able to complete the action with the other things we have on our plate is improbable based on the priority we believe it has.
Whatever the reason, when you hear yourself falling into this practice do your best to stop and consider the cause, then clarify why you are having that thought or reaction. What has changed? Why has it changed? Has something taken priority over it? Once you identify the reasons, you can review and reset the direction and expectations with others involved.
Don’t forget to share these language adjustments with your team, challenge each other to call each other out if they hear these words being used.
Practice Building Consultant
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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