“Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all sorts of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power.” –Amy Tan
You likely haven’t thought about him in a while, but recall Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk fame. Jack had his magic beans, which allowed him to grow that massive beanstalk, ascend to the top, and trick the resident giant out of his treasures. Like Jack, you also possess some magic, though likely not in bean form, in your workplace arsenal. The magic that you possess is in your words. Words that earn respect, smooth relationships, and get things done. Words that show you care, and that you want and intend to make a difference. Words that further your career. Words like these:
- Tell me about you.
- What do you think?
- How would you approach this?
- I don’t understand. Please show me, one time.
- Respectfully submitted, I believe we should . . . (and then offer your solution.)
- I believe you should know that . . . (Remember, disclosure is your friend.)
- I was wrong to . . . I am sorry. Please forgive me.
And, of course, there are deadly words – those that hinder rather than help your career. Words such as:
- All I said was . . . (AKA, it’s your fault you were offended by my offensive words.)
- With all due respect . . . (What follows is rarely if ever respectful! And please note: this is much different than “respectively submitted” from the positive words list.)
- It wasn’t my fault.
- It happened on my watch, but it was Bill’s/Mary’s fault.
- I emailed you about that. Didn’t you read it?
- That’s not how we’ve done it before (Or the corollary: that’s how we’ve always done it.)
- That’ll never work.
And, “I guess I wasn’t thinking,” which may lead to “I guess I’ll be looking for a new job.” Even if you weren’t thinking, don’t confess to it!
Jack used his wits to outsmart the giant. Even though you are, of course, wittier than Jack, the good news is you don’t need to trick anyone to further your career. You — and your career prospects — would be well served, though, to choose your words carefully. Your words matter – make them count!
For more career-shifting advice, check out Look Out Above: The Young Professional’s Guide to Success.
Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, HR Digest, CBS News, and more. It is available for purchase on Amazon, or by contacting the authors directly for discounted bulk orders.