By Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor 

There are really more, we know that. But what we have found after a survey from our clients is these five killer words always seem to rise to the top.

They are conversation diverters. Just as ALWAYS and NEVER are conversation diverters, these five killer words will make your customers and your potential customers veer away from the real point of your conversation.

So best we eliminate them from our routine and vocabulary. It’s not easy to do. If it were easy to do, everyone would be doing it…and we know everyone isn’t doing it.

Remove these 5 Killer Words from your sales and presentations and watch the scene go smoother. 

  1. “It’s not our policy.” – Ouch! Okay, okay, most every company has policies and it’s something we need to deal with on a daily basis I’m sure. What we realized was it’s not necessarily the policy that’s frustrating, it’s blurting out first and foremost, “It’s not our policy” or in some cases it’s “their” policy.The policy needs to be rephrased so that it starts off in a more positive way. We like to say “rejecting gently.” And rephrasing policies are a good way to explain what’s not gonna happen.

    Next time you find yourself saying, “That’s not our (their) policy.” Stop. Regroup and reword. Buffer it with, “Let me see what we can do. Normally the policy of the company doesn’t allow last minute changes. (The request MUST be stated so the customer hears that you’re going to go to bat for them.) However, we can sure tackle this.”

    What happens here is sometimes when we go back on behalf of the client, it works. And then sometimes it doesn’t. But at least we double checked. And we didn’t just slough it off with, “I’m sorry. It’s not our/their policy.”

  2. “Our computers are so slow.” – Big excuse. Everyone’s computer runs slow every once in a while. When you complain about your computer it’s as though, you’re complaining about your company. That’s how it’s perceived. And perception is reality. Take the time to say, “This might take a bit longer than I’d like it to. Tell me about…” and then ask a benign question that will take time and let the customer talk.While most people do understand slow computers, they don’t like it. It kills the conversation.
  3. “Calm Down.” – Oh man does that make the hair on the back of their neck stand up. In any movie or TV show I’ve watched lately when someone is told to “calm down,” the next words are, “Don’t you tell me to calm down.”Bill O’Reilly said that to a guest the other night. And the guest slammed back at him “don’t you tell me to calm down.”

    There are times when the client may need to vent. Your job is to listen and come in at the appropriate time with sympathetic and empathetic wording. Instructions on how to handle something is one of the last things they need. Get rid of “calm down.”

  4. “No Problem.” – And they’re thinking, “When was I a problem?” Believe we can thank the ‘islands’ for this one. When we take a cruise and ask for anything, what’s the first thing the waiter says? Right, “no problem.”Well on the cruise it may be okay; however, back home it should be “you’re welcome,” “my pleasure,” “happy to help,” and a host of other ways to let the customer know you’re glad to do that.

    No problem appears to be a big problem with your customers. Lose it. It kills the conversation.

  5. “Yes, but…” – Hmm what’s wrong with that? We all say it. Well, what’s wrong with that is the minute we say “yes, but,” the client knows something negative is coming.If you have ever said, “I love you so much, but…” There’s a condition coming, isn’t there? Here’s one way to change that: “Yes, we can do that. There is, however, a $50 additional fee.” Doesn’t that sound better than, “Yes but…”? 

Most people have phrases and sayings they don’t like or that aggravate them. Keep a list of your killer words (along with ours) and avoid them.

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.