How to succeed on Business: It’s not what you say, but what others hear.

It’s the classical tale of foot in mouth disease..

It is interesting to see that after many years of hearing something, sometimes all you need is for someone else to explain it on a different way and finally you get it. I have to say that I could be considered the poster child for this article, and one I wish I would have put attention to many years ago. After reading this article, something clicked in my head and I finally got it..

It does not matter how well intentioned your comment was, it only matters what the other people hear.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

We need to remember that people other people are not mind readers, and that what they hear is based on their own sets of expectations, beliefs, and values. So if it is important to you (or me), it’s my (or your) responsibility to be sure the message going out is appropriate to the recipient. And we need to remember that today’s globalization will conspire with everything else to increase the number of normal challenges to the communication process. Let’s remember that the person we are talking with (not talking to) may be from a totally different culture, and what is very normal for us, it may not actually be for them (does anyone remembers the famous Reagan “A-OK” Brazil incident”.. or Romney’s 47% comment (that potentially cost him the election)…

So pulling directly from the pages of Inc. here are some of the phrases you should avoid in business…

I Can’t

I am famous for using the I (we) can’t and until know I never understood what the problem seemed to be when people reacted to my responses. As the article says many people interprets this phrase as (I won’t) and it potentially conveys dodging and dishing off responsibilities. Personally I never considered on that way since every time I used the phrase it was usually accompanies by because and all it meant (in my mind) was to highlight the challenges that I perceived, so we all can work on the solution. In retrospective what I should (and wanted to say) was, yes we can, let me work on it to find out how…

That’s not the way it’s done

Thankfully I rarely used that phrase since it’s not part of my natural style. Simply put the business environment is on a constant state of flux, and sticking to time tested strategies and products, it will get you exactly that timed strategies and products. Let’s just remember that the builders of the egyptian pyramids were some of the greatest architects of their time (but we don’t see too many people trying to build pyramids anymore). The same happens with many modern companies that fail to adapt to the changing times, they become the dinosaurs of the modern era, and continuously ask themselves what happens ( does anyone realizes that companies like Google, Facebook, and similar other are replacing dinosaurs like Microsoft, Cisco, and others by innovating, being flexible, and changing the rules of the game)..

That’s Impossible

I like to turn that around and use a phrase from the movies the difficult is already done, the impossible will just take a little longer. Impossible it’s just a very relative term, 200 years ago everybody knew that it was impossible to talk with someone on the other side of the world , 100 years ago everybody knew that it was impossible to travel to the moon, and so on and so forth. Or as described by Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

If we only had (money, time, resources, …)

Many of the people that run corporate america today have never been entrepreneurs, and have always counted with the almost endless resources of their organizations. Entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury of being able to just ask for additional resources, people, equipment, or to simply get put them on the wish list for next quarter. Apple started in a garage, Facebook and Google started in college dorms, and almost every single successful corporation of today had it’s beginnings in a substantially more humble locations than their multibillion dollar empires can afford today. The way to succeed is actually to find ways to accomplish the objectives with less resources than your competitors (that’s actually one of the competitive advantages of a company). Ignoring this phrase is potentially why so many startups are actually successfully winning against the established dinosaurs, they (startups) don’t know they need all of these resources to succeed (let’s remember that the America’s was discovered by Colon in what today could be considered barely seaworthy vessels, he didn’t waited for Delta to open the Spain-Florida connection… )

The problem is (anything)..

Everybody already knows what the problem is, what they don’t know, and what you get paid (as an employee, manager, executive, CXO, or simply entrepreneur) is to solve the problem. If there were no problems (and that includes the basic needs of shelter (housing), hunger (food), etc) there will be no business opportunities (because why will anybody need to obtain/buy anything there is no need for it). Let’s remember that even fashion is born and grows out of the opportunity to meet many of the individual needs including (remember mallow’s hierarchy of needs), physiological (being able to attract a mate), safety (cold, rain, heat), belonging (team colors), esteem (uniforms), and even self-actualization (miniskirts, high heels)..

Thinking on communication and how are people perceived, there is a joke that I hear many years ago that asked:

How do you call a person that speaks three languages: Trilingual How do you call a person that speaks two languages: Bilingual How do you call a person that speaks one language: American.. 🙂

courtesy of

courtesy of

So let’s make our lives (business and personal) easier, by removing most of these phrases and biases from our day to day, and attempt to think on how are our thoughts being communicated to others. In today’s global environment we need to remember that we all are part of a multinational environment, and that what was well known and accepted yesterday, it may not be any longer valid tomorrow. In the world today it is happening already in the U.S. our cultural environment is being transformed by changing demographics, and improved communications. Let’s remember that we are part of a global community, and that no single individual, or single country’s needs, are more important than anyone else.

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5 Most Destructive Phrases in Business | Inc. 5000.