Six Types of Damaging Speech Every Leader Must Avoid

Leadership is about hope, aspiration, and the dream of a better future. That’s why so many great leaders have also been great orators. Words are our primary tool for casting a positive vision.

However, negative speech can slip into your everyday conversations in ways you may not realize. Your up-talk may rouse lots of enthusiasm on the platform or in the conference room, but that can be wiped out in the hallway by the negative speaking that you do without thinking.

Here are six forms of negative speech every leader should eliminate. Identify these momentum killers and banish them from your vocabulary.

  1. Gossip

Gossip is saying something unkind or unflattering about a person who is not present, whether it is true or not. Gossip is easy to slip into, but it’s a signal of powerlessness and disrespect of others. Don’t do it, and don’t tolerate it in your presence.

  1. Complaining

Complaining is saying something negative about a circumstance rather than doing something constructive about it. The result, of course, is that complaining only makes us feel worse, and it has a tremendously negative effect on those around us. As a leader, you will hear many complaints but you dare not make a single one. It signals to your team that you feel helpless. Being silent is better than pouring negative words into a situation.

  1. Naysaying

Naysaying is devaluing or rejecting a suggestion without evaluating it fairly. Often, it is a power move. As with all forms of negative speech, it is self-defeating. Nobody likes a naysayer, and naysaying often circumvents positive changes.

  1. Insults and Sarcasm

Insults and sarcasm are saying negative things about another person directly to them. We’re tempted to do this because it feels empowering and can be a way of exercising power in a relationship.

Contrary to popular belief, words do hurt people. Insults and sarcasm are incredibly harmful to others, even if they do not reveal the hurt to you. Never use words to harm.

  1. Trolling

Trolling is saying negative things directly to another person through electronic media. Our culture is awash in negativity on the Internet. The world desperately needs positive leaders with positive words.

  1. Bragging

Bragging is relating positive information, especially when exaggerated, about yourself for the purpose of making yourself look better to others. Of course there are occasions, such as a job interview, when you must let others know your accomplishments. Generally, however, bragging stems from the negative thought that others somehow don’t respect us enough or give us the attention we deserve. The best way to combat bragging is with silence. Also simply avoid the words I and me, and notice how often you are prone to saying them.

Will you take the Up Words Challenge? Resolve to go one week without engaging in any negative talk. Enlist an accountability partner to keep you honest. The experience will be exhilarating—and revealing. You can do this!

What is your best tip for developing the habit of positive speech? I’d love to hear your answer on Facebook or Twitter!



ReThink Your Life

The way we think determines the way we act. Thoughts become actions, and actions become habits, so gaining control of our thoughts is the critical first step in making positive life changes. Here are practical steps anyone can take to discover purpose, focus, decision-making, and improve quality of life by renewing the mind.