Trigger Words That Can Screw Things Up!

Key Point: We make decisions about others very quickly. We have to be cautious about doing that because the meaning of respect, one of the tenants of The Character Triangle, is to “look again.” It is a powerful definition that encourages us to really observe and listen without judging hastily. However when I meet with others, I must admit that I do listen very carefully to the words and phrases used. Their language gives me a glimpse into what I think they really believe. Let me share a few of what I call “trigger words.”

“I.” People who define their success exclusively in the context of “I” make me wary. Most highly evolved and effective leaders describe their accomplishments in sincerely humble ways. They know that success is most often a result of many hands. Sharing that view does not diminish their contribution. It does however highlight the self-awareness required to understand that many people and fortunate conditions are necessary for great results. (The one time using “I” is appropriate is when leaders take the heat for something gone wrong). 

“They.” Frankly, I detest the use of this pronoun in the context of blame. When I’m interviewing someone and they tell me the reason they want to work for me/us is because they are running away from “they,” I almost always conclude the discussion with a “no thank you.” This usually tells me that self-accountability is not fully resident in that person. I do not want to invest in teaching people to become self-accountable. I want them arriving demonstratively with self-accountability.

“Yeah, but…” When people use this phrase they might as well stop the conversation with me. My experience is that most often the word “yeah” is a big second fiddle to the word “but.” Resistance to exploring options with “ yes but-ers” is normally very high. People who lead with “yeah, but…” often have a closed versus growth mind-set. They spend their time thinking about why something won’t work versus finding ways to make things work.

“Should” and “Never”… Really? Why would I associate myself with “should” and “never?”

Character Moves:

  1. Learn how to use precise words. Sometimes I think we have lost the importance of having an extensive vocabulary that provides us with the repertoire of using the most effective word to describe the feeling we want to accurately convey. I believe one has to READ great literature to expand our language catalogue. It’s not about huffiness it’s about the significance of clarity. Cable TV and abbreviated social media terms just don’t help very much.
  2. Watch words that tell you what people really believe in. Look for trigger words that determine whether the “feet and mouth” are really in sync. What are your trigger words?
  3. Be aware of the words you use that define and reinforce your beliefs. Language is powerful. You may want to believe you think a certain way but you give yourself “away” by what you say (and do, of course).

Say it and mean it in The Triangle,

– Lorne 

  1. Margaret McVea says:

    Just discovered your blog and really enjoyed your latest post. Very timely and helpful! Will follow you on Facebook and Twitter to keep up- to – date. Hoe all is well and would enjoy a coffee and further discussion one of these days.

  2. Lorne says:

    Always great to hear from you and get your thoughts and insights Les

    Thank you


  3. Lorne says:

    Thanks Les…always great to hear from you and get your insights !

    One of the most important active phrases…..” I am”..,,not I’ll try 🙂



  4. Les Lent says:


    As usual you’re spot on! I read this and thought about how many times I’ve heard these words (and unfortunately said the!).

    Another trigger word-phrase in business is “I’ll try”. In my mind it’s a passive aggressive way of saying “It isn’t going to get done”. Heard that from another thought leader I admire, George Frazer.


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