The 3 Words that Trip You Up

Have you seen lately all the articles about the differences between men and women? Who is better? Who is equal? Who is best at what?

Well, through helping women communicating better to get respected and recognized when working amongst men, I realized that there is at least 1 thing that men and women have in common. The way we perceive certain type of communication and more precisely certain devaluing words.Interestingly while both genders react in the same negative way to them, it seems that mostly women use these pesky words.These words are seemingly used to come across as nice, non-intrusive and non-demanding but they can make the speaker looks uncertain about what he or she is saying and thinking.

  1. Just

As in “I just wanted to know if you have that report I asked you”

Meaning: “it doesn’t matter if you don’t have it even though I clearly specified I needed it by COB yesterday”.

“Just” means “only” and can be diminishing as in “she’s just a child”. If it matters to you, then don’t pretend it doesn’t. You want your message to be clear and through your communication you also educate people. They will quickly learn whether you “mean it” or not.

The reality is: You don’t want to come across as if you were asking too much, and damage a relationship.

What to do instead: Don’t start with the “what” start with the “why”. With the example above: “John I need to finalise the presentation for tomorrow, do you have the report I asked you?

  1. Sorry

As in “Sorry to bother you”

Meaning: “ I am a very annoying person and you have so much better things to do than be disturbed by me” .

When you say sorry, you either believe you’ve done something wrong that calls for forgiveness, creating in turn, the same belief in the other person’s subconscious (yes you are that powerful) or you don’t really mean you’re sorry.

The reality is: You want to be polite and be respectful of people.

What to do instead: Say the person name “Jane?” and either give your message if you must deliver it now “the client has arrived for our meeting” or ask if it is an appropriate time for you to ask or talk about something.

  1. I think

As in “I think we should meet with that client”

Meaning: “I just said what came up and I am actually asking for your approval”.
Using “I think” reduces the force of the statement and makes you come across as someone lacking confidence.

It also makes your suggestion very personal.
Same as when you say “it’s only my opinion” it attaches your personality to the idea. So that if someone was to disagree it would then become a disagreement about you as a person rather than about the idea itself.

The reality is: You don’t want to come across as bossy and dominating

What to do instead: again starts with “why”. “They made an enquiry about our products, it would be great to meet with them”.


In my coaching sessions, I mostly listen for language and patterns and these are the 3 most common words that when women stop saying, they start seeing a difference around them.

This is not about completely banning those words from your vocabulary. I do trust that you will keep on fighting for a just cause, apologising when you’ve done something wrong and be humble enough to accept that your opinion might not be shared by all.

This is about appropriate time, mindfulness and meaningfulness. The best communication is the clearest, the less ambiguous. As a leader you must say what you mean and mean what you say because this is how you create trust.

If you would like to improve on your communication techniques to become truly influential, book a time now to discuss. Make good those resolutions, technically it’s still the beginning of the year!


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