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We’ve all been there. We’ve had an especially hard day, everything seems to be going awry and you’re well— frustrated to point that you either say something or want to say something that in hindsight you shouldn’t. Many careers are often broken with one bad conversation that snowballs into something much greater than a little annoyance ever intended. 

Whether you’re the boss or an employee, the rules apply to everyone. Here are some common traps that might be harmful to your career if you’re not careful.

  • The blame game. How many times have you been less than satisfied with a coworkers or subordinates work? Yup, we all have, but there’s a more constructive way to handle it. Using pronouns like, “you” and then proceeding to criticize or blame that person will likely cause defensive remarks and ultimately shut down any possibility that any productive takeaway will occur. Instead, add yourself into the mix and say, “I didn’t feel like this presentation was as complete as it could have been.” This way, you’re taking responsibility for your perception of it versus closing out the conversation with, “You didn’t complete the presentation.”
  • Shoe-dropping words. “You’re doing a fantastic job, but…” do yourself and everyone you work with a favor and replace the word “but” with “and.” When you use the word “but,” it immediately makes people wonder when the other shoe is going to drop, and usually that shoe doesn’t bring more praise. 
  • Weak language. One of the many traits of leaders is decisiveness. When you use words such as, “maybe, perhaps, possibly, or soon” not only can it be frustrating to the receiver, but it also can be received as words of uncertainty as there’s not specific answer being given. Be precise. 
  • Generalizing. No matter what type of relationship you’re interacting in, generalizing words are dangerous. Using terms such as, “everybody, nobody, you never do this, you always do that,” are rarely 100% accurate and will leave the receiver on the defensive. Fact: when leaders over generalize frequently, it makes them sound overly dramatic and, over time, they lose credibility.

Whether you’re an employee or the leader of an organization do your absolute best to foster a positive work environment. Falling into these common language traps will only hurt you and how you are perceived. Choose your words wisely.