Avoid Trigger Word Problems

Some of the words we use trigger emotional responses in others. If you are aware of them, you won’t get unwanted reactions from someone you’re trying to relate to. Let’s talk about how to avoid trigger word problems.

Although most of our communication occurs through our body language and vocal tone, the actual words we use are important too. They can reveal our class, education, expertise, and attention to detail.

Sometimes they do more than that – they trigger emotions in the listener, which can be positive or negative. Understanding and using the right trigger words puts you miles ahead when communicating. This is true whether you’re talking with employees, bosses, customers, kids, spouses, or friends.

Negative triggers point out the problems between me and you. Most contractions are negative triggers. People don’t want to hear “can’t, don’t, won’t, and shouldn’t, have to or should.” (Nobody wants to be “should” upon!) ‘No’ is also a negative trigger. “Policies” and “rules” are trigger words that anger people because they’re used to block their needs. Words like “blame, fault, bad, and problem” round out my favorite negatives.

Nobody wants to be “should” upon!

Positive triggers are more cooperative and include words like “we, us, our, and together.” Social niceties like greetings, goodbye, please and thanks fall into this category. “Yes, OK, understand and help” are always positive. My other favorite positive triggers include “solve, guide, fix, serve, and offer.” So, think about the effects your words have on others and you’ll avoid trigger word problems. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Start by listening to others, and finding areas of common ground.
  • Never act like they are your “problem” – or even that they have a “problem.” Act as if together you can find a “solution” or face this challenge.
  • Don’t say that you “can’t” do what an employee is asking because of “policy.” Instead tell them what you “can” do.
  • When they ask a question, instead of telling them you “don’t know,” ask them to give you a second to find out.
  • Instead of telling a caller that you’re going to transfer them, offer to put them in touch with someone who can help.

Promote cooperation by choosing positive words and you’ll find people a lot easier to deal with.