6 Words That Won’t Let You Down

Do you have the gift of the gab? The innate ability to know exactly what to say at exactly the time to say it? Able to conjure precisely the turn of phrase that will get the listener on-side and get you the outcome you need?

I don’t. (I’m even an occasional ‘foot in the mouth’ person.)

At least not to the extent of those who can – because those who truly have the gift of the gab are rarer than you might think.

Instead, most of us have learnt which words and phrases work and, just as importantly (though often more painfully), which don’t through trial and error. We’ve said the first or maybe second thing that’s popped into our heads, seen the positive or negative reaction it’s elicited, then filed the phrase away in our mental folders marked ‘Woo-hoo – that’s worth another go’ or ‘Uh-oh – best steer clear’. Obviously, it’s better for your personal brand if you delve into the former when making conversation.

Well, thanks to Andy Bounds, communications specialist, best-selling author and sharer of top tips to help everybody improve their gabbing (including the foot in the mouth crowd), here are six more words that can be relied on to deliver. I’ve included Andy’s explanations of how they can be used, along with my own experiences:

1. Offline

Andy says: Stuck in a meeting with people going into too much detail?  Try this: “This conversation’s useful, but getting too detailed. Let’s take it offline”. (In effect, ‘offline’ is a nice way of saying ‘shut-up’!)

I say: I’ve used an alternative that suits my lexicon better (offline doesn’t trip easily off my tongue), which is, “Let’s arrange to meet separately to go through the detail and stick to the top-level stuff now.”

2. Quick

Andy says: Want someone to engage with you but worried they won’t because they’re so busy? Use the word ‘quick’ to overcome their concern: “Can I ask you a couple of quick questions?” It’s surprising how much more appealing this is than: “Can I ask you some questions?”

I say: Yep, that’s one I’ve tried and tested on many occasions. One caveat though: you have to be quick, otherwise you’re promising something you’re not delivering – a definite no-no for people trusting your personal brand.

3. Advice

Andy says: Want someone to do something; but concerned they might say ‘no’?  Try this:

You: “Can I ask your advice about something?”
Them: “Of course.” (this is the only answer they could give!)
You: “It’s important we move forward with [topic].  What would you advise we do next?”

I say: I’ve used the alternative, “I’d appreciate picking your brains on something,” then quickly follow it up with, “Is now a good time?” (Note the positive language of ‘good’ rather than “Is now a bad time?”) In my experience, people are flattered to be given a chance to share their knowledge and expertise.

4. Misunderstanding

Andy says: In an argument? They can quickly degenerate into the Blame Game – “It’s your fault”; “No, it’s yours”.  But it’s more important to find a solution than it is to be right.  So try this: “We’ve clearly had a misunderstanding.  Let’s look at ways we can resolve it.”

I say: A different tack I’ve taken has been to say, “I seem to have confused the situation.” I’ve found that by offering to take some of the blame (even when I’m convinced it’s not my fault) it can lead the other person to admit some fault too – which is a much better place to start resolving the issue.

5. Reflect

Andy says: Asked a question you don’t want to/can’t answer? Try this: “I’ve got a couple of ideas about this. Let me have a quick reflect and come back to you.” This buys you some breathing space, giving you time to come up with the answer you’re happy to give.

I say: In my days running press offices, this approach was key (not least because, if I rushed to give a journalist an answer and it proved to be the wrong one, it’d be there in black and white for everyone to read). My phrase was, “I’ve got an answer but I want to be sure it’s 100% correct, so give me 10 minutes and I’ll get back to you.” As with the previous caveat, I had to then deliver.

6. Explore

Andy says: Want to make a sale, but not come across as sales-y? Try this: “Let’s have a quick chat to explore our options.” Six simple words – and often very effective ones.

I say: When it comes to sales, I’m less forward than perhaps I should be. (It’s about the only area of business I’d say that about.) I’ll definitely be trying this one in future though.

To finish with a final word from Andy, he’s clear to point out these six words won’t always work (as he says, nothing always works). But they work often enough that, when your brain’s in a panic and rummaging through those mental folders for the right thing to say, you’ll be closer to having the gift of the gab if you grab one of those.

What are your go-to words or phrases? What would you add to Andy’s list? There’s a comment box below with your name on it (well…not literally, unless your name is Comment, but you get my drift).

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