Have you ever noticed that some people command respect when speaking while others don’t? It all comes down to the power of strong language.
Strong language is the difference between telling your boss that you need the day off and asking if it would be possible to take the day off. While it’s never okay to disrespect your superiors, it is important to take charge and act on what you need.
The power of strong language can be a hard concept to grasp – and even harder to implement if you aren’t used to actively telling people how you feel and what you need. However, once you have learned how to use strong language in your professional life, you’ll see an immediate and noticeable difference in how others treat you. If you draw clear boundaries every time you speak, people will have a much harder time taking advantage of you.
Strong Language in Action
Assume you are a manager. Think about how you would react if someone asked you this: “Can I take the day off? If it’s too busy or you can’t make it work, that’s fine.”
This statement implies that the person would like the day off but doesn’t care much about it. You may decide that it isn’t worth going out of your way to make it work for them. You would probably check what the schedule looks like for that day before letting your employee know if they could take the day off or not.
Now, think about how you would respond if an employee said the following instead: “I need to take this day off because I have a personal obligation to tend to.”
Chances are that you would react very differently.
When you make a statement instead of posing a question, people tend to accept it instead of questioning it. When you tell someone that you need to take the day off for personal reasons, you are actively telling them the situation instead of passively asking if the situation is possible. This leaves them little choice but to accept the statement or put up a fight about it. Most employers would rather not start the fight. They’ll understand if you need to take a day off here or there – provided you give ample notice, of course.
Saying ‘No’: Strong Language Is the Key
Another situation in which strong language is critical is when you have to say “No” to someone.
I actually found myself in this situation recently, and I acted incorrectly – but the good news is you can learn from my mistake!
I’m usually pretty firm when it comes to telling people I can’t do something, but an unexpected engagement sort of blindsided me into using weak language. Lo and behold, I didn’t end up getting out of it.
I was asked if I could come to an event. Even though I had other plans, I responded with the following: “If you really need me and want me there, I can come.” As I’m writing this, I see clearly how weak and unassertive I sounded. How I should have answered was, “I’ve made other plans because I wasn’t aware that you wanted me to be there.”
Note: One very important thing to know is that you don’t owe anyone at work an explanation if you need time off or cannot do extra work that is above and beyond your original agreement. Simply saying “I need time off” or “I cannot do that” should suffice. If someone prods you for more information, all you need to say is “It’s personal” or “I’d rather not discuss it.”
The bottom line is that we all find ourselves in situations where we need to assert our wants, needs, and boundaries, but it can be hard to articulate these things. Using powerful language shows others that you aren’t going to back down and let them choose for you.
Whether you are at work, with friends, or even with your family, strong language can help you take control of your life no matter the situation.
Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer and the founder of Write Styles.