Successful people know that positive words lead to positive actions, and this cycle repeats itself.
Beyond using their words to help themselves, they also use their words to send good vibes to the people around them. With the help of their communication, successful people do well in their career and have a strong social life.
On the flip side, negative self-talk hampers people’s lives and the lives of those around them. When there’s a reasonable task in front of them, negative words can make it seem impossible. And negative speakers certainly aren’t a joy to be around.
That’s why it’s clear that the words you communicate to yourself and to others make a difference.
So get rid of the negative weight and choose to speak with vocabulary that empowers yourself and others to do great things. To get started, check out these 11 words successful people don’t say and what to say instead.
If you’re like most people, you will say, “I’m going to try to get this done.” But the fact that you’re saying you’re going to try conveys doubt that you will get it done.
You already give yourself an out to not finish it because you never said you will do it, just that you will try.
Instead, commit yourself to an activity and focus until it’s finished. Say “I’ll get this done today,” or if you’re really good say, “I’ll get this done in the next hour.” That confidence will help you get it done and communicate to other people that you’re reliable.
Communication is one of the four main skills employers want, so don’t underrate it.
Replace “try” with: “will”
The word probably is too vague and ambiguous for successful people. It makes the communicator come off as unsure about himself and afraid to take a position one way or the other.
In a group project, think about your frustration if you asked a member to get something done before a deadline and they responded, “I probably can.” No one likes to hear that because it leaves room for alternative interpretations.
People want certainty and assurance that things will go smooth as possible. So give it to them, and they’ll love working with you.
Replace “probably” with: definitive answers
The classic example with maybe is when you ask a group, “Where should we eat?” People will go back and forth with no definitive answer saying maybe that would be good or maybe they would like that.
Telling people maybe only shows you don’t know what you want and contributes nothing to the decision, which is why successful people don’t say the word maybe. It’s far better to make a quick decision, especially on the trivial choices, or at least suggest where you want to go. You’ll come off as confident and assertive instead of unsure.
Replace “maybe” with: “do” or “don’t”
While it can go both ways, “if” is largely used in a negative context to complain or doubt something. It makes you lose focus on taking action and causes you to worry.
Or if you’re not happy at work, don’t look back and wonder if you should have taken a different job. Get active and start looking for a new job.
Live in the present, not in the world of ifs and hypotheticals.
Replace “if” with: “will”
When people say honestly to me, it makes me think what they were saying before wasn’t honest.
And it sends the message that they’re trying too hard to convince me to do something. So they must have some ulterior motive I don’t know about it.
The word is fine by itself, but when it’s overused then it screams sketchy. You don’t want to be seen as not trustworthy because of the way you speak or write. This is especially important when you’re aiming for good interview answers—so don’t use honestly.
Replace “honestly” with: being genuine in your actions and words
The word “but” is my pet peeve on this list. This word’s purpose is to contradict what was just said. Yet so many people don’t make sense when they use this word.
If you don’t agree with what you said in the first part of the sentence, why say it at all if you’re going to then cancel it out with the word “but” in the second half of the sentence? Be concise and mean what you say the first time.
People will appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness.
Replace “but” with: “and”
Possibly the most dangerous word on this list, “never” means 100% not going to happen at any moment. So if you’re reading this, you’re never going to see Alexander the Great in the flesh. You’re never going to have a conversation with your dog in English. Those situations are 100% impossible.
But so many people misuse “never” when talking about possible things and they damage their potential because of it.
While it’s said out of frustration, this word casts a negative cloud over reality. Instead realize that you had a bad day, but you’re going to overcome whatever is in your way if you keep at it.
Replace “never” with: “soon” or “it’s possible”
Similar to never, it’s pretty hard to find things that always happen. So you’re often wrong and feeding a negative view of yourself when you say this word.
For example, if you skip the gym for a week straight, your self-talk will want to overreact with something like, “I’m always going to be out of shape. What’s my problem?”
A healthier response is to say, “I sometimes skip the gym, and I’m going to get back at it tomorrow.” “Always” only condemns yourself, where “sometimes” gives yourself grace and leads to progress.
Replace “always” with: “sometimes”
The people who throw around the word “should” a lot are spending too much time in the past. Mistakes are bound to happen in life and business because no one is perfect.
The difference is below-average and average people spend their time drowning in their mistakes with self-talk like, “I should have done this.” However, successful people recognize their mistake, learn from it, and move on to do better next time.
Replace “should” with: “next time time I got it”
Besides the fact that your professor, boss, or friends hate to hear you say “I can’t,” in 99% of scenarios I bet you can do it. It may be difficult and challenging, but it’s not impossible unless you tell yourself it’s impossible and don’t try.
This negative self-talk from the word cannot has killed so many dreams before they’ve even gotten started it’s ridiculous. Successful people know they can do anything they set their mind to, so they don’t let “can’t” come out of their mouth.
Replace “can’t” with: “will” or “do”
11. Curse words
Cursing around your friends or family is a different story. But in a professional setting, curse words are often more trouble than you ask for. Each time you cuss raises the likelihood you offend someone, even if it’s only one person you’re offending.
That could come back to haunt you in major ways as your professionalism gets called into question. And this is a real concern because a survey by CareerBuilder found that 81% of employers doubt employee’s professionalism when they swear often at work.
So say in the future that the person you made uncomfortable has to decide whether you get promoted, get a raise, or stay on or get fired from the organization. You don’t want them to feel alienated and have a sour thought of you when they decide your fate. Or maybe you don’t get placed on the fun project because the company can’t trust your mouth in front of the client.
So instead of cursing like a sailor and dealing with the trouble after it, keep your mouth clean in professional environments.
Replace “curse words” with: non-curse words like “come on,” “no way,” “are you kidding me”
Remember it’s not so much that these words are bad, but it’s the underlying message that’s communicated by these words. And that communication determines to a large degree how other people perceive you and how you see yourself.
Now that you know what these words communicate to others and yourself, you can upgrade your vocabulary to empowering, positive words.
If you want others to believe in you, you need to believe in yourself and express it. So get rid of that negative self-talk coming from your mouth and watch yourself become more positive and successful.
Often it’s the little tweaks in life that make the biggest difference over time.
Do you agree or disagree that what you say has a large effect on what you do? What words on this list do you say too often? How developed is your vocabulary?
Related post: 101 College Vocabulary Words You Should Know