In a presentation or an email, it’s typically not the big things but the small missteps that damage relationships—particularly when it comes to blocking receptivity. Of course, as the speaker or writer, you’re focused on substantive matters like strategy, structure, and facts. Yet think of all the recent political and business blow-ups caused by a single word or phrase that hit a raw nerve with the public.
You can’t afford NOT to be concerned with word choice and someone taking offense over how you say something. The following words and phrases can be the 2X4 that hits people between the eyes and gives YOU, the speaker or writer, the black eye:
“Obviously”—Translated, this means, “The information that follows should be obvious to the average person. But since you are not so bright, I’m pointing it out to make sure you grasp what’s obvious to everyone else.”
“Apparently”—This implies someone has been sneaky, previously hiding something from you that you’ve had to deduce for yourself and then point out as in, “NOW I GET IT; you can’t fool me!”
“As I pointed out earlier”—This phrase typically translates as, “Weren’t you listening? Just want to make sure you not-so-smart people understand this.”
“Let me say again that”—Closely related to the previously phrase, this comment can be interpreted, “You’re not all that smart, so I think I’d better repeat again for you.” Or, it can mean, “What I have to say is profound. Listen up!”
“Let me be perfectly clear”—While on the surface this lead-in statement may sound helpful, the comment can also mean, “Let me simplify things so someone of your intelligence can’t possibly misunderstand.”
“I apologize for any inconvenience that may have caused”—This frequently used boilerplate apology demonstrates the speaker or writer has given no thought to stating what the real inconvenience was (it’s vague), implies that a severe problem may have been a mere “inconvenience,” and then suggests that it might not have caused a problem after all (“may have caused”)!
“No problem”—This come-back, often used as a substitute for “You’re welcome,” can be interpreted quite differently. What the words actually imply: “What you’re requesting could be a big problem, but I handled it for you without a problem.” That’s definitely not the same message as “You’re welcome.”
Offense is rarely intentional. But unfortunately people hear the words––not your intentions.