Language in the Professional Setting

How Words Affect Your Work

No one would argue with the fact that the tools you use affect the work you do. Ever try to close a business deal when your cell phone keeps dropping the call? Or work on a computer that has a virus corrupting every application that you open? In fact, you can’t even cut a piece of paper without leaving a jagged edge unless you have sharp scissors.

Tools matter.

So do words. They’re the tools that shape how you think about the work you’re doing or about to do. Take, for example, these often heard phrases and consider how they set you up for either failure or success.


Words and Phrases That Set Up Failure

––“I’m overwhelmed!”

––“It’s crazy-busy around here!”

––“I’m pedaling as fast as I can!”

––“I hate to do the paperwork.”

––“I’ll try to make the meeting …”


What images do these statements conjure up?

––“Overwhelmed”:  Are you drowning? Are you being buried alive?  Are you cowered in a corner crying, waiting for help?

––“Crazy-busy”:  Are you frantic? Stressed? Unable to think clearly? Losing your capacity to get real work done or enjoy life because of the crushing speed and demands of your work?

––“Pedaling as fast as I can”:  Do you see yourself as a child, lagging behind others who are faster, smarter, brighter? Are you anxious and fearful that you won’t catch up? What if you don’t? Are you struggling, struggling, struggling?

You get the idea. Words paint pictures in our mind. Pictures turn into feelings. Feelings, if unchecked, turn into our reality.


Words and Phrases That Set Up Success

Sometimes all you have to do to change your situation at work is to change how you talk about it—even if talking only to yourself!


––“I have a challenging situation at work!” (versus “I’m overwhelmed.”)

––“I work in a fast-paced business.”  (versus “It’s crazy-busy around here!”)

––“I’ve set a fast work schedule for myself.” (versus “I’m pedaling as fast as I can!”)

––“I enjoy my job for the most part—except the paperwork.”  (versus “I hate to do the paperwork.”)

––“I’ll put the meeting on my calendar for next month.”  (versus “I’ll try to make the meeting …”)


A “challenging situation” still leaves you in charge. It’s invigorating. You still have a chance to prove yourself—to succeed.

“A fast-paced business” puts the emphasis on the business. You have a choice about whether to continue in that job or choose another that lets you select a slower pace.

All the phrases in this second list focus on either choice or outcome rather than someone being victimized and trapped in a struggle.


If you let them, words will work to alter how you think and feel about your work.

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