Three Common Credibility-Crushing Caveats

Human language is the most amazing thing. I am particularly fascinated by the process of how we say things, even more than the content of what is said. Take caveats, for example. They set the tone for the whole sentence, no matter what you say next. Some are so powerful that you don’t even need to finish the sentence because the real point has already been made. Here are three that can do serious harm to your credibility. I’ve offered alternatives that show authenticity instead.

What you need to understand is…

Really!? I need to understand? Or then what? Maybe YOU need to back off! If I had a dollar for every time a customer service agent or salesperson said this to me, I’d be rich. This caveat is a sign of desperation and frustration. Trying to get someone to understand by telling them they NEED to understand is insulting and often comes across as a condescending ultimatum. It shows you are getting desperate, impatient, and self-centered. A more effective way to maintain your credibility might be something like,

“I can tell this is confusing. I want it to be understandable. What questions or concerns do you have? I’m committed to working through this with you until we are on the same page.”  

You’ll probably hate me for this, but…

This caveat is in a class of it’s own, along with it’s siblings, “This will probably sound stupid,” or “This may be a bad time to bring this up.” It’s a set up, a slow-pitch in the strike zone with “kick me” written all over it. If you respect yourself then you don’t need to pre-criticize what you have to share. This caveat is a self-fulfilling prophecy that invites others to bend over backwards to reassure you, or go ahead and hit the home run by agreeing that you ruined the day. Here’s a more effective way to maintain your credibility;

I’m anxious about something I want to share with you. When is a good time? I care a lot about our relationship, and I have always promised to be honest with you.”   

You’ve left me no choice.

This caveat is usually delivered by a boss or superior who lacks the courage and self-awareness to own their own responsibility and honestly confront your behavior. I may have violated the policy. I may have crashed the company car into a telephone pole while texting. But I DID NOT take away your choices. As the person responsible for enforcing a rule or commitment, you could choose to look the other way. You could choose to give me a second chance. You could choose to fire me on the spot. Regardless, that’s your choice. Every choice you make has a consequence. Don’t run away from your responsibility to lead by blaming your decision on someone else. Try this instead,

“I’m really angry about what happened. This is a clear violation of our policy and I’ve chosen to enforce it by letting you go. I feel sad about this.”

Change your language, change your life.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2016

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