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Weasel words have no weight

by Randall Craig on October 7, 2008

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Promotion

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you ever met someone who doesn’t give you a straight answer? They have a way of saying things that leave doubt in your mind about whether they will deliver on their promises. When this happens, listen to their words carefully: they use conditional words to express commitments. For example:

I might try to work on the project Wednesday, possibly in the afternoon.

Contrast this with the following, far more definitive statement:

I will finish the project on Wednesday.

In both cases, the project will be delivered by Thursday, but in the first example there is so much hedging that the likelihood of completion appears to be low.

Words such as May, Maybe, Might, Would, Could, Try, Possibly, and Consider have far less weight than Will, Can, Commit, Deliver, Promise and Leave it to me. Use the first group and you lower others’ confidence in you. Use the second group and you raise it.

In an age where one’s word is paramount, using weasel words as an “out” in case we can’t deliver often prevents us from going the extra mile for our commitments. In other words, it is easier to use weasel words than doing the tough work.

When your client, prospect, manager, or prospective manager asks a question, don’t be afraid to step up to the plate and make the commitment. You’d be surprised at what you’re capable of when your reputation is on the line.

This week’s action item: Before you send any email, write any report, and before you present at any meeting, check the weasel words at the door and make yourself accountable. A reputation for always delivering on your promises will give you latitude if things don’t work in your favor. (Balance Postscript: Making commitments works in your personal life as well…)

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)