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4 Words to Stop Using in the Office

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There are many ways to jumpstart a career if a rut or burnout feels imminent. But before taking any big steps for change, consider starting small: change the words you use.

Words have power. The words we use for people or things can color our perception of them. Furthermore, how we speak every day can modify our attitude and performance. By consciously changing vocabulary, people can consciously adjust their outlook.

The words below aren’t inherently bad, but removing them from the workplace will help build positive and proactive habits. Try to avoid these words for a few weeks, and see if you feel or act differently.

Just

When discussing your workload, we tend to brush off particular projects or clients as “just a small client” or “just a quick project.” These phrases diminish the importance of these things, making some work seem less important. In order to excel professionally, everything needs to be important. When every menial task and massive presentation receives the same level of attention and effort, overall job performance inevitably improves.

The word “just” is also frequently used to downplay our own accomplishments or to deflect praise. A manager may compliment a particular paper or report, and our instinct is to react with, “It was just a weekly report” or “I just compiled other people’s thoughts.” These reactions diminish your effort, and don’t project confidence or pride in work well done.

Mistake vs. Learn

Everybody makes mistakes, but not everybody learns from them. Failing is an essential part of growth, but it’s also essential to find the lesson in every failure. To remove negativity from the experience: call mistakes “learns” or “lessons” because these words represent the positive to be extracted. Then focus on these lessons instead of the original error; the wisdom gained will last much longer than the memory of the mistake.

Early & Late

It’s 6:30pm on a Friday, and the office is still filled with people finishing assignments and closing business. At many companies they would be the exception: they are staying late, going the extra mile. Indeed most people talk about working early or late as prospects they dread, which creates a negative work environment when they do work longer hours.

But when work is challenging and fulfilling, effort isn’t tallied by the minute or the hour. Early and late don’t have meaning when being at work is just as enjoyable as being at home.  Stop using those words as measures of effort or success, and start talking about deadlines met and goals accomplished.

Should

Stop agonizing over the past. Perpetually thinking about what you should have done or said is useless because it can’t be changed. Instead of saying, “I should have spoken up in the meeting,” try saying “Next time I will speak up in the meeting.” Instead of “I shouldn’t have missed my deadline,” try “I need to organize my time better so I don’t miss deadlines again.”

The word “should” implies reflection and critique instead of action. Managers love employees who proactively work to rectify their mistakes. So don’t dwell: act or decide to do better the next time.

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