If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re using “bad words” at the office, or even why they matter, here are some specific examples and slight changes in language that can have a positive outcome on business:
Price vs. Investment
The term “price” seems harmless – and it is, most of the time. However, “price” can correlate to “cost,” which is not always the most effective association. Next time, replace it with a more positive term, such as “investment,” which connotes trust and mutual benefit.
Contract vs. Agreement
The word “contract” can be negative because it sounds very formal, binding and legal. It also implies there will be a lot of complicated verbiage and might involve attorneys. Instead of using that kind of harsh, strict term, use “agreement.” This word again incorporates the attitudes of both parties and has more positive associations.
Deal vs. Opportunity
A “deal” is a big win, so of course the term should be used in business, right? Wrong. For one, if you tout a deal as a “win,” it can put the focus on the sale, not the work involved. Using “opportunity” speaks to the positivity of landing the deal as well as the responsibility of the job moving forward. (If you’re thinking that all of these example terms are largely about keeping two sides of a conversation happy, you’re catching on quickly.
Objections vs. Areas of Concern
This example is simple: If you “object” to something, you’re stating a direct opposition. Most conversations in business don’t require such a staunch stance and would be better suited by expressing “areas of concern.” Now, this phrase might seem silly or too wordy, but trust me, expressing “concern” is usually much better than stating “objection,” especially when it comes to situations where more nuance is key.
Cheap vs. Inexpensive
The common use of “cheap” in the workplace can have many subliminal connotations, ranging from “lemon” to “bargain” – none of which help in a conversation. The term “inexpensive” better bridges the cost gap and contrasts the term “expensive,” which itself has ties with negative emotions.
Customers vs. Clients
Are you working with a “customer?” Great. Call them a “client,” anyway. Dealing with a “customer” is a one-sided transaction that feels cold and leaves a partner feeling like just a number, whereas a “client” feels like a budding or blossoming relationship between two parties.
Try vs. I Will
This paradigm shift is important to me, and it’s one that I am always bringing up in my coaching sessions with businesses. In fact, I go into detail in my new book, No Try, Only Do – in which I talk about the lack of inspiration or effort tied to “trying.” A lot (and I mean, A LOT) of leaders fall back on this language and I understand why. It can be tempting to soft-sell responsibilities or tasks when the calendar looks full. That’s exactly why switching the language to “I will” is so important – because it illustrates full commitment and a stronger attitude of responsibility.
I’ve seen many businesses change little bits of language over the years, and they add up to great results internally and externally. And I’ve been teaching leaders about “bad words” in the business vocabulary for so long now, I regularly run into people I worked with years ago who tell me how these negative terms in the workplace still make them cringe.
Don’t rely on weak language. Turn arguments into conversations, increase understanding and inspire your team members by eliminating bad words in your organization.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.