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July 2018

Seven Toxic Words To Train Yourself And Your Food Staff To Avoid
By Richard Myrick for

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There are approximately 600,000 words in the English language, but not all words are created equal. Even some which are commonly used or well-intentioned, can hurt to the point of being toxic. Toxic words can inflame emotions, impact how you're perceived, and hurt communication in your food truck.

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As a business owner, you want to use words that build rapport. You want your staff to speak to co-workers and customers respectfully. Even when offering needed criticism, you can do it positively.
  • Can't. For example, "We can't do that", "I can't authorize that" or "Our customers can't understand this menu description". Such harsh statements should not be used and are rarely useful.
  • No. It's such an easy word to use. It's clear and to the point, but it's very often seen as too negative, or disrespectful. Instead, strive to offer a more informative comment about an action or the decision made.
  • Wrong. If you want to make someone get angry or question their intelligence, tell them they're wrong. If an issue truly is black or white, fine, but most are not, a more nuanced statement is more helpful.
  • Fault. Assigning fault may be necessary sometimes, but know that it's dangerous. The key is to focus more on the team rather than any one individual when possible, and frame it positively. Yes, someone might need to own a little fault, but then you move on quickly to talk about how to be productive moving forward.
  • Never. Repeat after me. Never say never. When talking about the future, this word almost always feels like a door slammed in someone's face. It can reduce hope and thus motivation. You can't see the future, so resist saying never.
  • Stupid. Stupid is a common word, but it's usually seen as insulting. Even though you might be talking about an idea or work decision, not a person, people very often take it personally. Instead, try to choose less inflammatory language.
  • Impossible. This one, like never, is too dark and heavy. It asserts knowledge of the future Consider saying, "I'm not sure we have the time for that," or "I'm concerned this might be too difficult right now." Statements like these are more measured, and respectful.
The Bottom Line

To have a your food business run smoothly and successfully, there must be a level of respect between management and staff. Avoiding the use of these seven toxic words will go a long way toward reaching that goal. I do admit that all of these words when used sparingly, and framed constructively, are fine. But remember, don't overuse them with a negative tone. The words used in your food business matter, so try to err on positive word choices if you really want people to listen.


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