The Three Words that will Devastate your Career, Relationships, and Sales.

Every conversation is a selling and coaching moment that constructs lasting images in others’ minds. Considering how critical first impressions can be, three words are deadly to your career and your very psyche. These three words, when uttered, send an extremely negative message to everyone around you. These words—just nine simple letters and one apostrophe—can have an incredibly detrimental effect on your ability to create new relationships, establish credibility, and attract others. 

 Ready? Here they are:

“I’m just the…”

These three words by themselves send a powerful message about how you feel about yourself and view your value and contributions to your organization. “I’m just the” sets up a cascade of unflattering perceptions and opinions in mind and hearts of the people being spoken too. It creates an indelible image that you have little to no value. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding these three, seemingly harmless little words. They can negatively impact you in several ways.

  1. This expression is one you are so wired to say, and it sends the message that “I don’t matter.” It’s akin to saying, “Please don’t take me seriously. “There is another dimension to the very damaging effects of these words. Imagine a colleague or client approaches you, and they ask you some questions about a situation. The questioning could be entirely innocent or pointed—eliciting a defensive response in the form of “I’m just the” to deflect blame or responsibility. These words are an intentional or unintentional way to defer accountability. Unconsciously these words set you up for failure and disengagement.
  2.  It’s like using “but” when you should say “and.” Using the word “but” is a bad idea because it negates everything that has been said up to that point. The same result occurs when you say, “I’m just the.” You make it harder on yourself to get what you need, and it drastically affects your ability to leave a lasting, positive impression. You must engage people to further their goals. Let them know you matter!
  3.  It sends a clear message that you don’t have confidence in what you do and how you contribute every single day. One of the most common questions in business is, “What do you do?” When faced with that question, you typically have a few seconds to make your mark. Don’t waste that opportunity by starting with “I’m just the.”
  4.  It telegraphs your insecurities. Everyone has them, and anyone who suggests that they are not insecure at some level is anxious. Secure people are ok with their insecurities and face them with courage and determination. Life can be hard enough without adding to it with these three words.
  5.  Confidence is cool.  Project confidence and be able to articulate what you do quickly (your value proposition) and capture people’s imagination and passion. Don’t squander that golden opportunity with the following answer …” I’m just the” and then your title. Snoozer.
  6.  It’s competitive out there! When you use these words, you don’t differentiate or set yourself apart in any way. You might as well say, “Please ignore me and talk to the next person.” When people attempt to engage you in conversation, believe that they want to try and find some common ground. Engage with others and display an open willingness to take the conversation to a deeper level. 
  7.  It’s all about attitude and mindset. “I’m just the…” communicates a negative attitude and mindset. Whether accurate or not, once the message is sent, the perception is set. Perception becomes a reality, and then it becomes tough to reverse. Don’t make things harder on yourself than need be.
  8.  It does matter what people think! When you were growing up, did your parents ever say, “It doesn’t matter what others think?” While that may be true in certain situations, when it comes to selling yourself, explaining your position, or seeking consensus, it does matter what people think. Choose your words carefully. Don’t make it easier to be dismissed by others by uttering the words ‘I’m just the”
  9.  Respect. When you hold yourself accountable and refuse to hide behind, “I’m just the” you show the world that you accept responsibility for your position or your opinion on a situation—regardless of the outcome. 

Avoiding “I’m just the” will earn you respect and admiration. It will earn you relationships. It will earn your business. 

Replace “I’m just the” it with “I don’t know,” and everything accelerates. “I don’t know” is honest, vulnerable and shows you can be trusted.

Saying ” I don’t know,” says you know what you know and you know what you don’t. It says “I know who I am accountable.” It screams integrity and credibility. Think about it!

6 thoughts on “The Three Words that will Devastate your Career, Relationships, and Sales.”

  1. Todd, I love this. Just this morning someone said to me, “I’m just the…” and it made me cringe. I’m now going to forward your article to my team.

  2. You’re right, we often use self-defeating phrases. Delete them and insert confident statements of true benefit or an admission about what you don’t know as you suggest Todd. Even better, guide people to where they can get the answer.

  3. You nailed it Todd!
    I recently had a similar situation with a manager of mine.
    In the middle of a meeting regarding an under performing employee and his future, he said, “I’m just a worker not an owner, I have no skin in the game.”
    I was blown away! Speechless.
    Since then I have turned to him less regarding important decisions about my business. If he views his role as a lessor one how can I trust his decisions?

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