Stop Using the Word Help

People who know me well know I will – in regular conversation – use words such as caparison, promulgate, indecorous, maudlin, perspicacity, purloin, amalgamate, and a host of other little-known SAT-type vocabulary words. Why? Because I enjoy finding the right word. I can parse out the difference among obdurate, intransigent, intractable, and truculent – all basically synonyms for stubborn but much richer with more layered connotations.

And yet the one word I cannot abide, especially in business communications, is help. By definition, it means to make it easier for your client to do something through offering services or resources. Technically accurate; however, still a crutch word which doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t show your skills; it doesn’t make your client see what you do or how you do it. I don’t help my clients write their documents and materials. I do, in point of fact, write these on their behalf.

So why should you eradicate this word from your vocabulary? Let me tell you.

First – a question. Are you in business to make yourself subservient to your audience, or to elevate yourself as an expert?

Help ingratiates you to your listener. You position yourself beneath your client, elevating them to the place where they have the power to choose to not need you. Why is this? Because this value proposition creates a situation where you then attempt to convince your buyer/customer/client to decide if they will purchase your goods or services – rather than sitting confidently in the knowledge that they do need you. They need you precisely because you are the expert, and they are not. People like making decisions for themselves. Saying “I’m here to help you” makes an assumption that they are incapable of self-efficacy. Which turns off a large number of prospects.

From a literary standpoint, help is a…helping verb. It diminishes the power of your action verb. Did you help do something, or did you actually do the thing? Help reduces your involvement and weakens your value proposition, undercutting your strengths and your abilities.

Also consider who the help were, in a historical framework: they did the menial tasks, the unseen things, the things people didn’t want to do but wanted done. They were devalued, they were not adequately compensated (if at all), and they themselves were unseen, invisible. They were beneath the other class of people.

In order to position yourself better, stronger, find another word. Y’all, there are so many words. Partner. Assist. Work with. Collaborate with. Support. Advise. Guide. Educate.

From a business standpoint, every business and business owner say they want to help people. By using the same verbiage, you are working against yourself. This does not adequately differentiate you from your competition. Try it both ways when you feel yourself about to say the H-word.

Instead of saying “I help my clients with…” try “I partner with / assist / guide / advise my clients to…”

My clients tell me it transforms their presentation when they avoid this word (but it’ll take work to get out of the habit of leaning on it!).

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