SORRY, BUT you SHOULD TRY… not to use those 4 words.


The words we choose to speak each day have a powerful influence on our thoughts and actions. And sometimes we don’t realize our speech needs a bit of “editing” until others hear us talk. A rich working vocabulary can enhance our communication and scrabble standings, but part of the equation involves examining the problem words too. I once met with a friend who challenged me to reduce my usage of the following 4 words.
Should. Try. But. Sorry. And here is why:

While I once lived under the tyranny of the should, I now consider it nearly a cuss word. Oh, should. Saying “I should” tells us a story about we fall short on an expectation, and it offers little hope of change. For instance, if you curl up on the couch to watch an episode of New Girl and can’t stop thinking about how you should really be vacuuming instead, you won’t crack a smile at any of Jess’s funny jokes; your internal monolog will be too busy sending you negative messages about irresponsibility. Most likely, you will either begrudgingly submit to your personal order, or keep watching the show and feel regretful and guilty about it later. Neither situation is advantageous. Actually, acting under the “should” is a fast road to burnout.

I deal with internal should statement in two ways. First, I question its validity; should I vacuum now? Says who? Maybe the carpet is fine, and I can kick back. Or maybe my allergies need me to vacuum this very moment. Secondly, I recognize and redirect the should statement into something more empowering. So instead of “I should do pushups” I might say, I want to have strong arms to increase my athleticism and self-defense skills. Or some days I might say, I could do pushups, but I am choosing not to because I like lunges better.

I used to say sorry so often, the word stepped in as an alternative filler for “um.” I would arrive at a potluck and say something like, “Hi. I am sorry I’m 3 minutes late. Sorry if I’m disrupting the conversation. Sorry, if I this isn’t enough dessert. You all look so nice, sorry if I’m underdressed.” The majority of the time, I was not truly sorry. Rather, insecurity drove me to seek reassurance by apologizing to deflect potential judgment.

Life will present us with plenty of opportunities to offer apologies, and ask others forgiveness for our wrongdoings. However, the phrase “I AM sorry,” has become another triplet of words said both too much and not enough. Excessive saying sorry takes away the weight of our genuine apologies, and slowly chips away at self-worth in the process. Linking sorry and I AM, gives an apologetic attitude about our very existence. It says permanently sorry is who you ARE. Instead, practice using an action verb phrase like “I apologize,” and then use it when appropriate.

“I’ll try to…” Do or do not, there is no try.- Yoda
We use try as a crutch or a back door in case things don’t work out. The try frame of mind can have a negative effect on performance, even if it is at a subconscious level. If someone says, “I’m trying to meal plan every other week,” it indicates the end meal result is up to chance. Saying “I’ll try to” communicates a lack of confidence in your ability to follow through, or incomplete commitment to the plan. If you attend a wedding where instead of saying “I do” the bride or groom say “I’ll try” it might be a good idea to speak now. Statements like my goal is___ , or I will do___, hold more power and act as brain pavement for a path of action.

But: “No offense…BUT.”
Inserting “but” between a positive affirmation and a critical statement is typically an attempt to soften a blow, or get away with saying something hurtful. If a person uses this technique often, others will brace themselves for rejection whenever they hear a compliment from them. Here are a few examples: “You have good resume experience, BUT…” Or, “I think you’re really pretty…BUT” Or, “Don’t take this the wrong way, BUT…” I don’t even have to fill in the rest because you already know what comes next. In these contexts, but acts as like red pen negating the previous positive words. Instead, when possible, use AND.

“Your cookies tasted great, AND I think they would be even better if you added twice the chocolate chips.”

2 thoughts on “SORRY, BUT you SHOULD TRY… not to use those 4 words.

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