I am a lawyer coach who specializes in helping professionals deal with attorney fatigue, lawyer burnout and lawyer depression.

Words matter. Many people say and think in an undisciplined manner without any regard to the words they are using. Certain words can have a tremendous impact not only on how others perceive us, but on how we feel about ourselves. Here is a list of words which can be extremely debilitating and should be avoided if possible.

  1. Failure:  No one (and nothing) is a failure. A failure is simply something that doesn’t work for its intended purpose. Thomas Edison said that he never failed, he just discovered ten thousand ways something didn’t work. What some people call a failure is simply a step towards finding success.
  1. Victim: No one is a victim. People who call themselves “victims” are not being responsible for their actions and blaming what happens in their life on others. People have more power than that.
  1. Stupid: One of the most destructive labels we call ourselves or others is stupid. Just because we didn’t know the answer or couldn’t foresee an outcome doesn’t mean we are defective.
  1. Can’t: Most people use the word “can’t” to excuse laziness or unwillingness. What they really mean is “I don’t want to”. People oftentimes don’t achieve their potential because they take the easy way out, thinking they “can’t” do something.
  1. Would/Could/Should: These words indicate criticism, especially used about someone or yourself. Everything happens exactly the way is it supposed to happen. Second guessing is a large waste of time and unproductive.
  1. If only: These words express negative judgment and criticism. They also cause stress and suffering, largely because suffering is caused by wishing the past was different.
  1. Try: Everyone remembers the famous words of Yoda the Jedi Master, “Do not try, do”. When we say we will try or we tried, we are not doing our best. It also assumes that you will not succeed.
  1. But: Remember that when we use the word “but”, it negates everything we say before that. “And” is a much better word in most circumstances.
  1. Never: When we use the word never, we will regret it. It also indicates prejudice against something, and we should always have an open mind and prepare for any eventuality. Life is what happens when we had something else planned (usually preceded by “never”). “Rarely” is a much better word.
  1. (10)Always: Just like “never”, we are setting ourselves up for being proven wrong. There are only a few aspects of life that can be described as always, such as sunrises in the east. “Usually” or “most of the time” are better options.
  1. (11)Stuff: Many people use this verb as a noun. It is imprecise and vague. You will usually have to specify what you are talking about anyway, so just avoid its use.
  1. (12)Nice: Nice is a vague term that is largely useless. It can be positive or negative.
  1. (13)Fault: Fault is a word that fixes blame to us or others. When we say, “that is my fault”, we are blaming ourselves for something that may or may not have been in our control. Oftentimes this is a word that telegraphs being a victim and should be avoided.
  1. (14)So: This is a word that is relatively meaningless and often is used in a sarcastic way.
  1. (15)Really: This is also a rather vague term that can signify ignorance or guesswork. What does it mean? I am “really” happy, sad, mad, etc. doesn’t’ describe your emotions and only shows you are a vague person.
  1. (16)Sorry: When we use this word to describe how we feel or to apologize, it has a subliminal message that there is something wrong with us. “Regret” or “apologies” are a more positive way of expressing how you feel without self-castration.
  1. (17)Loser: Loser is a word that should never be used about us or others. We never know what other people may be going through in their life. If we are talking about us, we are destroying our self-esteem and confidence.
  1. (18)Other Derogatory terms: Most people don’t realize that when they use derogatory terms in general, they are describing how they feel about themselves. “Bitch”, “bastard”, racial epithets or other curse terms mirror how we feel about us. Just don’t.
  1. (19)Simply: Nothing is simple. Use of this word is generally an overgeneralization and patronizing.
  1. (20)Right/Wrong: More wars have been fought over these two words than any others. If we can avoid using them, we will be much happier.

I can think of other words that people will do better to avoid, these are some I work with every day. Good luck with your speaking clearly and precisely.