Leadership Tips: Here are 2 Words To Avoid At Work, at Home, and Everywhere

Summary: Words are powerful. Some can lead you to success. Others will get in the way and keep you stuck in old, outdated behavior patterns. Be careful of the two vital words discussed here.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I resolved to communicate more effectively this year. Time is moving quickly, and I still feel I will never get a handle on communicating to collaborate.

I know you have a webinar titled “Communicate to Captivate.” I don’t want to captivate; I want to collaborate.

However, in writing this, I think you may be on to something. Perhaps first, you need to captivate to collaborate.

As the director of a creative team in the beauty industry, I want some direction on changing my words for the better.

Careful, once words are out of your mouth, they belong to others

It often feels impossible. Words, once out of a person’s mouth, have wings. They no longer belong to who said them.  

They can be helpful or hurtful.

I seem stuck in the hurtful.

My team is floundering, and we have much work to do together.

Can you please help?


Going Silent

Communication skills are vital for success in all relationships.

Dear Going Silent,

The best ways to communicate to captivate and collaborate are significant areas for all of us: leaders, followers, elders, and youth.

Let me offer a story from one of the companies where I am an executive coach.

Meet Carole and Brad.

Carole was a great collaborator. In most situations at work, she was eager, fun, and creative. However, she had one constant complaint. It was about Brad. The problem was they were on the same team, and she had to find a way to work with him.

Her complaint about Brad? “He always,” so she would say in frustration, “He always has to have the last word.”

The tendency to complain is heightened when we feel discounted.

Her other complaint is, “He never asks her questions, only tells his opinion.”

And then she would top it off with, “I could never report to a jerk like him.”

Brad, well, he had similar issues with Carole. “Hey,” he would shrug. “You can never count on her to listen. She always has to have the upper hand. You can never win with her.”

“And,” He would add with a sigh, “She never asks questions. She only tells you what to do. What a bummer. I can never win with her.”

However, Brad said, “I would like to find a new way to talk with her. Maybe we can find a better way to communicate.”

Brad was, at least, willing to look at new ways with words.

To which Carole would say to friends, “It will never happen!”

Personality conflict? Of course!

People’s conflicts have a basis in poor communication skills.

However, it goes beyond their personalities. They stay stuck in the familiar world of “Always “and “Never.” They are stuck with words that deflate and defeat even the best relationships.

These are two of the most destructive words you can use, mainly because they shut down the route to possibilities for interpersonal collaboration.

Think about where you use these two words.

Where do you “always,” and where do you “never?”

I bet you’ve heard these words, like poison arrows shot at you since you were a kid. Stuff like “You never do what I tell you” from a parent. Or, “You always have to show off in front of my friends” from a sibling.

What do these words do?

Words can heal, words can hurt, and YOU Choose.

They set up a power battle. Sadly, a power battle is impossible to win long term, set up so the other person must prove to you that you’re mistaken. Or, they will feel defeated, and a barrier is created that cuts off honest communication.

The words always and never create antagonism.

Here’s what you can do. Filter before you speak. Just about everything in life is fluid and can change. Even the most offensive of relationships has the power to be redirected with good intentions.

Rather than make the “always” and “never” claims, use words like “often,” “regularly,” or habitually” when you want to point out a frustration.

Give room for a response. Ask, don’t tell.

In our fast-paced world, it’s best to slow down and ask rather than tell

Most of us habitually were put into that very small “always” or “never” room when we received a time-out as a kid. The discomfort of those words stays with us even when we are strong, competent adults. Often, there is a natural tendency to feel a sense of shame, frustration, or defeat, and conversation shuts down.

Dale Carnegie, author of the well-known book “How To Make Friends And Influence People,” suggests that “90 percent of all management problems are caused by miscommunication.” Notice he didn’t say “always.” He left some room for other possibilities.

And here’s what happened with Brad and Carole.

Brad was promoted and became Carole’s boss.

Stay out of the always and never trap. Hint, it’s always a trap.

And Carole proved herself right. She soon left the company because she could never report to a jerk like Brad. And guess what? In her next job, there was another Brad. She’s now looking for a new job. Want to hire her?

In summary, be like Brad, willing to look for new communication methods. Don’t be like Carole, where old models of “always” AND “never” will keep you stuck. Explore and experiment.

Here’s to your success,


PS. Want a complimentary copy of Communicate to Captivate webinar? Please send an email to me at sylvia@ceoptions.com.

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options