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Ditch the words that dull your shine, Origineurs podcast episode, hosted by Loretta Milan

Ditch the words that dull your shine

This episode's highlights.

  • (01:30) Why the words you use matter
  • (01:48) The impact of dulling your speech
  • (03:00) Three types of dullifiers and how to ditch them
  • (08:40) How to shine in the way you deserve 

The words you use matter.​

Your words don’t just convey what you mean, they convey who you are.

But, did you know, there are some simple words that many people use every day that can cause unintended problems?

Using them could compromise your reputation, make you seem less capable than you are, less credible, and less trustworthy.

And, worse, every time you use them, without realising it, these words can affect the belief you have in yourself too.

Words create an impression.​

Every time we speak, we are creating an impression of ourselves, and so the words we use matter greatly.

But because we’ve all been speaking for many years, we’ve often picked up bad habits along the way without realising it.

This is very much the case with ‘dullifiers’. 

This is what I call words that dim or minimise you, your achievements, and your commitments. They’re simple words that are easy to say but – accumulated – they have an influential effect on you and your image.

They often slip into sentences and cause damage in four main ways.

  • They weaken your message.
  • They weaken your credibility.
  • They weaken your relationships.
  • And, they weaken your self esteem.

Why do we dull our speech?

Despite dullifiers being damaging, there’s a comfort to using them and it can be hard to let go of them.

Usually, it’s because we think they will make us sound more measured and more humble. We don’t want to sound like we’re showing off, being too pushy or overconfident in ourselves.

Other times, it’s as a way of avoiding being truthful or committing when doing so would feel uncomfortable.

So, we slip them in because using a dullifier feels better than worrying about the judgment of others or facing discomfort.

Three types of dullifiers.

1. Qualifiers.

Qualifiers are possibly the easiest to spot and eliminate. These are words that you add into your sentences to tone them down.

Examples are ‘just’, ‘only’, ‘quite’, ‘a little’, ‘actually’ and ‘kind of’.

You might call someone up and say ‘It’s only me…’ or you may dullify your level of experience by saying ‘I’ve only being doing this five years’ rather than saying I’m proud of my five-year track record.

Or, you might play down what you need by saying ‘I just need you to complete this report’ rather than say ‘It’s important that you complete this report’.

The use of the words ‘quite’, ‘actually’ and ‘kind of’ tend to make you sound unsure of what you are saying and simply eliminating them without changing anything else makes the rest of what you’re saying stronger.

So rather than saying ‘I’m actually quite confident in my abilities’ you’ll sound far more assured saying ‘I’m confident in my abilities’.

2. Pacifiers

The use of pacifiers is a form of avoidance. By using them, you’re getting out of saying how you really feel. Maybe it’s to avoid a conversation or to avoid accountability.

Using a pacifier is an unhealthy way of killing conversation and it’s not great for your wellbeing or your relationships.

A common example is when someone asks how you are and you respond with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m okay’.

This is no problem when this is genuinely how you are feeling but too often this is a reflex response, given without thinking.

What if you’re feeling fantastic – what would be wrong with sharing this joy? And, if you’re feeling down, what would be wrong with opening up to the right person about your challenge and asking for a moment to talk?

Why is the instinct to pacify and avoid conversation than build a culture of support?

And, there is another big pacifier: the words ‘I’m sorry.’

If you’ve messed up and you’re genuinely sorry, admitting this is absolutely the right thing to do.

But often, ‘sorry’ slips out as a reflex, as a way of appeasing someone without being accompanied by meaning. Here in the UK, this can result in people saying ‘sorry’ too much, even when it’s not their fault.

I find a great way around this is to switch the word ‘sorry’ for ‘apologies’. Because this doesn’t roll off the tongue so naturally, I can’t say it as a reflex. I have to think about it.

Therefore, before I speak, I have to consider first if I am at fault, then if I mean it and how I am going to rectify things.

Therefore, when I say to someone, ‘Apologies, let me fix this’, people know it’s not just words – I’m going to follow through because – ultimately – action counts, not an empty pacifier.

3. Nullifiers

Nullifiers are words you use when you talk about things you’re committing to such as ‘could’, ‘should’, ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, ‘if’, and ‘try’.

Knowing the impact that eliminating dullifers from your vocabulary can make, it would be great if you committed to giving it a go.

But, if in your head, you find yourself saying ‘I should do that sometime’, or ‘I’ll try it if I can’, it sounds positive, but there’s a risk it won’t happen. So, keep reading because you’ll want to know about nullifiers as they’re so important when making commitments that really stick.

When considering a commitment, it’s essential you face it and are not tempted to hide behind nullifiers because there is no could, should, or try.

You either decide to do or do not.

So, for any decision that comes up, take a moment to ask yourself, do you really want to do it or not?

If the answer is the answer is no, you’re better owning the decision and saying something like: ‘I’m not able to do this now’, or ‘this isn’t right for me’. In doing this, you will also need to own the consequences. Although this may be hard, your honesty can be respected.

But, if you do genuinely want to commit, you can do so with assurance. You can say ‘I will do this’ and ideally be specific as to how, when and where you will do it.

When you make decisions and are courageous, this not only builds your character and your confidence in yourself, but people will come to respect you more.

It's time to shine with greatness.

Listen to your speech over the coming week and be on the watch for dullifiers. The first step is being conscious of them.

The next step is to make positive substitutions that strengthen your message, strengthen your credibility, strengthen your relationships, and strengthen your self esteem.

Be aware that the use of dullifiers can be an ingrained habit. Don’t be hard on yourself if qualifiers, pacifiers and nullifiers creep into your speech or if it feels uncomfortable dropping them at first.

Addressing dullifiers can mean facing your feelings. If removing certain words from a sentence causes you to have feelings that you will sound overconfident, look at everything you’ve achieved and tell yourself why you should believe in yourself.

It is better to address these underlying feelings than allow yourself to be diminished forever because you don’t deserve that.

If you slip up, the trick is to recognise it, learn from it and make a commitment around what you will do next time. Each time you do this, you’ll be training yourself to build more confident speech that allows you to shine with greatness.

Key takeaways.

  1. Dullifiers are simple but destructive words that slip into speech often through habit. They weaken your message, your credibility, your relationships, and your self esteem. However, many people lean on them because they worry about sounding like they’re showing off, being too pushy, or over confident. Alternatively, it may be that they’re avoiding a commitment or truth.
  2. There are three types of dullifiers: Qualifiers like ‘just’ and ‘only’ tone down sentences to make them more palatable. Pacifiers like ‘okay’, ‘fine’ and ‘sorry’ are a way of appeasing others and avoiding conversation. Nullifiers like ‘could’, ‘should’ and ‘try’ help to avoid committing firmly to action.
  3. The first step to eliminating dullifers is to watch your speech and spot them. When they come up, switch them for some of the more constructive alternatives suggested in this episode. It can take time so be patient, address any underlying feelings, push through the discomfort, and remind yourself that you deserve to shine.

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