We rely on language in every aspect of our lives, both in personal and professional matters. From what you write on your website to what you say to your partner after a long day, words form the fabric of your lived experience and can drive success or failure—depending on how you use them.
And when you run a service-based business built on sales, marketing, and client care, the language you use directly impacts your bottom line.
Yet, changing your vernacular isn’t as easy as automating text shortcuts on your phone. Since the dawn of time, humans have learned language from the people around them. We pick up social cues, common phrases, and slang terms from family and friends. But in today’s hyperconnected world, we are also influenced by societal expectations conflated by the media and a diverse array of online communities.
For instance, women are often “conditioned” to use limiting language—words and phrases that demonstrate weakness or humility rather than confidence and tenacity. In a business context, such a pattern can hold one back from achieving their full potential.
Yet, with input coming from all directions, it can be challenging to let go of the behavioral habits associated with language in an ever-changing society.
Here are a few tips for curating the words you use about yourself and your business.
Cool it on the apologies.
Saying sorry is a powerful tool when you’ve wronged someone, but it’s a word commonly adopted as a defense mechanism even when unnecessary. Apologizing to a client trains them to believe you’ve done something wrong—even if it’s as small as responding to an email a few hours later. The more the “sorries” add up, the more a client starts to see you as an offending party, putting you in a lower status position in their eyes.
Search your inbox for the term “sorry.” You’ll be shocked to see how often you’ve apologized for simply having boundaries. Instead, use empowering phrases like “Thanks for your patience” or “I appreciate your feedback,” which acknowledge the other person’s efforts without undermining your self-worth.
Skip the unnecessary add-ons.
There are a lot of words and phrases that sneak into our everyday language that don’t seem like much up front but can trigger subconscious ideas about you and your service.
For instance, the term “just” is vastly overused but often in a way that diminishes your position and power. “Just checking in” and “Checking in” communicate the same idea, but the latter is more direct and will inspire more engaging responses.
Other phrases to leave behind include:
- “Actually”: Often used when someone feels unheard, “actually” adds little to a statement. State your opinion clearly and directly instead.
- “I’m no expert, but…”: Yes, you are! Leading with this phrase is asking someone else to affirm what you’ve said to be valid and accurate. If you already know it is, forget the self-deprecating verbiage and speak with confidence.
- “But”: A small but powerful word, “but” can feel like you’re setting up an argument. Be mindful of its use and, when possible, try replacing it with “instead,” “however,” or “and” to soften the impact.
- “Does this make sense?”: When you follow up an explanation with this phrase, you are either telling a client you are not confident in your communication skills or that you assume they are not intelligent enough to understand. Switch this out with “I look forward to your thoughts,” or even a casual “Thoughts?” to invite a reply.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Think about the work you do for your clients. How do you describe it? Is it all matter-of-fact language that tells them precisely what they get? Or is it laced with emotional triggers and visuals that paint the picture of the true value you provide?
For example, the term “day-of coordination” minimizes the work that any event service package includes. You are not just valuable on the day of a wedding! You also carry far more responsibilities than “coordinating”—you are a planner and producer. Own your space and what you do for your clients.
Lean into the discomfort.
Changing your language can feel challenging at first. You’ll notice you forget to leave out a particular word or push back against some phrases. But as with any habit, it’s like toning a muscle—you have to practice and keep challenging yourself. Stay tuned in and aware of the words you use, and soon, the sorries and self-defacing comments will feel uncomfortable instead.
Conscious language is about communicating with others so they can receive it in the way you intend. As you evolve alongside the world and language itself, remain mindful to examine how you speak, write, name your packages, and demonstrate your brand value.
When you are mindful of how you communicate with others, your clients will feel seen, understood, and affirmed in their decision to move forward with you. Being an entrepreneur is about more than what you do for your clients. It’s about examining yourself and constantly working toward improvement. Self-awareness is key to success, and the language you use in (and out) of business is the first place to start.
Renée Dalo is the owner and lead planner of Moxie Bright Events, a boutique wedding planning company based out of LA. With over 12 years of experience under her belt, Renée turned her knowledge towards the advancement of the industry as a whole with her self-guided Wedding Management e-course and her popular B2B podcast, Talk With Renée Dalo. Renée is a fan favorite on the speaker circuit, taking the stage at national and international conferences across the country, including Alt Summit, Wedding MBA, and Creative at Heart, among others. She is recognized across the industry, having earned a coveted spot on Honeybook’s 20 On The Rise list, and she contributes frequently to industry publications. She currently serves as the President of WIPA Southern California and has also held leadership roles in The Association of Bridal Consultants and The Rising Tide Society.