3 phrases highly effective professionals avoid at all costs

There are consistent professionals, and then there are highly effective ones. You know the type: Excels at prioritizing, possesses outstanding judgment, turns challenges into opportunities and goals into actionable plans, and has uncanny ability to manage stakeholders without ruffling any feathers.

“I define effectiveness as being able to achieve business goals and objectives in the manner that is expected, with successful outcomes. Being effective is important for career growth as well as contributing to the survival of an organization,” says financial services and banking operations leader Tanya Brady Law, MBA, who has over 15 years of experience helping teams achieve high levels of performance.

Effectiveness stems from mindset and is solidified in concrete day-to-day actions. And if you pay attention to the way highly effective people carry themselves at work, you’ll notice their edge in the way they communicate. It’s not only about the things they say and how they say them, but also the things they leave unsaid.

Want to become more effective yourself? We’ve asked Brady Law for her insights on the type of language super effective pros avoid at all costs. Start by banning the three following phrases from your vocabulary — you’ll never hear a high performer utter them.

1. “We, unfortunately, didn’t achieve our goal.”

The truth is, not all goals are going to be met. But your attitude about not meeting them is what separates you from the pack. According to Brady Law, a highly effective professional would look at failure as a learning opportunity instead of dwelling on the unfortunate side of not meeting a target. “Sometimes the best lessons are learned from failures or mistakes, and there is nothing unfortunate about a blessing in disguise that came from an unexpected result,” she says.

When you approach any ambitious objective, start by being willing to learn and grow. Top performers regularly check in on the progress of their goals and pivot course if necessary, which means they are on the lookout for learnings even while striving to achieve the goal. And whether a goal is met or not, it’s important to take the time to debrief and understand what went well and what could have been improved.

2. “Why are you upset?”

“This question can imply that you disagree with the emotion the person feels,” says Brady Law. The most effective professionals tend to have a high EQ. They understand that they don’t have to agree with everyone and everything, but that validating their colleagues’ experiences and feelings is the first step to having productive conversations and strengthening relationships. “Highly effective professionals focus on interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence in their communication habits. This makes them more impactful because sincere, emotional connections build relationships based on trust.”

So how do you go about handling emotionally charged moments like a highly effective and compassionate teammate? According to Psychology Today, the first step to validating someone’s experience and making them feel heard is to be present. Then, pay attention to the person’s emotional state and words so you can practice active listening. Summarize their feelings out loud back to them. Most importantly, approach the conversation from a genuine place of concern and a desire to understand.

3. “This is an irrelevant question.”

Highly effective professionals keep their cool even when others show up unprepared. Brady Law shared an anecdote about a conference call where one participant repeatedly used the meeting to ask low-value questions. The facilitator ended up directing the conversation in an effective way — take notes:

“Several key stakeholders grew irritable with a member who was obviously using each project meeting as a training platform rather than doing their homework throughout the week and asking educated questions that contribute to the project. The host finally addressed the issue openly by speaking to everyone about the importance of the project as well as reiterating the timeframe and, therefore, the urgency for each participant to own their part.”