Inject power into your remarks by eliminating words or phrases that weaken your message. That’s easier said than done, since many leaders aren’t aware of how their word choice works against them.
You already know not to apologize needlessly (“I’m sorry to have to remind you, but please submit your report by 4:00 today.”). Here are some less obvious but equally important keys to communicate with clarity and force:
1. Skip the minimizing. Beware of beginning a conversation by saying, “I only want to talk about….” This leads listeners to think that your comments are trivial, when in fact you want to make a critical point. Instead, say, “I’d like to discuss….”
2. Avoid the waffling “might.” When you respond to a request by saying, “I might be able to do that,” you create more problems than you solve. Listeners may wonder what you mean—and suspect that you lack conviction or you’re hiding your true intention. It’s better to make a promise forthrightly.
3. Project confidence, not doubt. By telling an employee, “If you can get to that today, we can rest easy,” you’re dropping a not-so-subtle hint that you want it done. A clearer alternative is to skip the indirectness and say, “When you complete that today, we can rest easy.”
“If” introduces the possibility something may not occur. “When,” by contrast, assumes it will occur. Using “when” conveys your faith that others will follow through—and signals that the task really matters to you.
— Adapted from The Secret Language of Influence, Dan Seidman, Amacom.