Do you scare people off when you speak? – Show Up & Sparkle

Fear in the OfficeHow to inspire instead of being scary

I don’t know about you but it’s so easy to be put off an idea or suggestion by some of these every-day phrases. As professional business women, choosing your language carefully and, yes, strategically is one of the secret keys to unlocking other people and opening them up to your ideas.

We tend to do it naturally at home with our partners and family, so why not at work?

Here’s what I mean.

We’ve all heard someone start off with “Well, the trouble is” or “What worries me is” haven’t we? Or what about the classic “Now, our first problem is” – talk about putting you on your back foot and priming you for ‘trouble ahead’.

You know the thing that happens when we hear those sorts of phrases? Our brain immediately asks “Uh, oh – what’s wrong?” or “Oh dear, I need to brace myself for a problem” and so we’re automatically on the look out – or listening out – for a problem.

Ask yourself this. “Is it useful for me and for what I want to say to have people listening out for a problem?” No. We both know it’s actually counter-productive. When we start to scare people off or put them on the alert, we’re telling them that we’re thinking about something as a problem. They may not. They may actually decide it’s an opportunity or have a spin on the subject that you haven’t thought of and often you can come across as a worrier or a ‘scaremonger’ without actually meaning to.

The more savvy, effective way to draw someone’s attention to something tricky is to present it as a challenge or something to solve and introduce it that way.

Here are a few quick examples for you to introduce the thing you’re a bit concerned about or see as a ‘problem’ but without labelling it as one at the outset:

  • Now, here’s something I know you’ll have some thoughts on…
  • What ideas do you have about …
  • This could be a bit tricky, how will we get around this….
  • I’ve been thinking about this and know that you’ll be able to help…
  • How are we going to avoid ….

By presenting the information in the form of a challenge or by presuming that the other person will have ideas about it or a solution you do 3 savvy things, straight away:

  1. You come across as someone open to a challenge and always looking for the solution
  2. You prime the other person to be ‘up’ for the challenge by presuming they’ll be able to help and posing them a helpful question rather than presenting them with a problem (What ideas do you have? How can we? What do we do about?)
  3. You avoid that whole scaremonger, doom-and-gloom way “what I’m afraid of is” and “the worst thing is” by actually planting the suggestion of blocks or bumps in the road and scaring people off.

So, the next time you hear someone say “well, the trouble is”, presume that they really only need to flip it and think to yourself “well, the trick here is, how do we…” and then, like magic, off you go and lead the hunt for the solution.


About the author

Kay White is our Show Up & Sparkle blogger. Known as the Savvy & Influential Communication Expert for Ambitious Women in Business, Kay shows professional women how to attract promotion, recognition and rewards at work without feeling they have to ’sell their soul. Kay shows her clients, who are corporate career women at all different stages of their careers, how to naturally attract more income and opportunity all while being true to themselves. Combining strategic moves with influencing skills plus compelling and assertive language and powerful mindsets, Kay draws on her own 20+ years corporate career in the very male-dominated world of London insurance broking. She started at 18 as a Secretary and left as a Director to start her own business. Hosting an annual 3-day Event for corporate women “Show Up; Sparkle & Be Heard LIVE” Kay encourages and shows women how to be the best, most valuable version of themselves. Kay is author of the Number 1 Best-Seller “The A to Z of Being Understood” and you can connect and find out more from Kay at :

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1 Response
  1. kay I enjoyed reading your article. I like the straight forward way you write and the suggestions you made for making the change from the negative to the positive. Thank you.