Dumb Comment From Someone Who Should Know Better

Serving tasteful food, selective focus, canon 1Ds mark IIIThis Italian restaurant lost six customers at our table after the server made a comment that surprised everyone.

Before this happened, I never personally experienced what effect trashing the competition could have on listeners.

Now I know.

This is what happened:

As we were placing our orders, someone at our table (Tony) mentioned the pasta he was ordering looked like the same pasta he had eaten at Macaroni Grill.

Our server at __________’s restaurant volunteered that she had been to Macaroni Grill the week before and the food and service was “terrible.”

Tony did not ask the server’s opinion, so why did she volunteer her opinion?

Hard to know but it made me stop and think.

It is never good to trash competitors because it leaves a negative impression with customers.

But it IS okay to criticize the competition when the CUSTOMER brings up the name of the competitor and asks questions about the differences between your company and the competitor’s company.

That is what happened recently.

I called my Internet service provider to check out different “bundles” and see if a better price was available for Internet, TV and digital land line telephone services.

(One company has been my provider for many years but another business is offering what sounds like a very low price for the “bundle.”)

After I told Vanessa what her competitor was offering, she said something surprising, so I – at first – did not know whether or not to believe her.

Knowledge about the competitor makes the difference

Vanessa explained the reasons for the price differences between her company and the competitor.

What she told me turned out to be verifiable; I called her competitor to make sure of the facts.

The price differences and extra fees were not included in the beautiful mailer I received from her competitor.

Like extra charges for each cable box and hidden monthly fees for technical telephone assistance.

With everything added together, the “low price” bundle offered by the other Internet service provider was not really a bargain.

Is a competitor trying to undercut you?

Find out exactly what your competitor’s price includes, because as in my experience there are often “extra fees” or hidden charges that your competitor may not have mentioned.

Business Lost

The thoughtless comment made by this otherwise professional server at ______________’s restaurant lost future business for that restaurant.

12 Words Never to Say

A few years ago there was a very sad court case in Florida where Casey Anthony was on trial charged with the first-degree murder of her 2-year old daughter, Caylee.

expert-witness-tnFor the most part, the line-up of experts testifying was impressive.

But some were un-impressive.

One of the defense experts was an award-winning forensic botanist who sounded unsure about part of her testimony.

Many of her answers included the words “possibly,” and “probably” and it “could have been” this or that.

These were not very definitive statements for jury members who were looking for answers.

There are 12 wishy-washy words that experts and marketers should never, ever use – either in letters, emails, in person or on the telephone.

12 Words to Never, Ever Use
By Ian Lurie

Using “wishy-washy” words gives the impression that you are not quite sure whether your information is correct or if your product is worth buying.

So why should the listener believe you?


“The technician will probably be there around four o’clock.”


If you needed a technician, wouldn’t you want to know a more definite time when the technician would arrive?

“Probably” is one of those wishy-washy words not to say.

More Wish-Washy (Weasel) Words

fairly (as in ‘fairly decent’)


kind of










On the other hand, there ARE effective words known as Positive Power Words you can use in emails, phone calls and direct mail letters.

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The Number One Listening Turn-Off

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by Meredith Bell, President of  Performance Support Systems, Inc.

I was trying to have a conversation with this person.

But I found myself getting irritated with one thing he kept doing…interrupting me in the middle of a sentence and talking over me.

It became impossible to carry on a conversation because it seemed like I was never able to articulate a complete thought.


This is an extreme case, but unfortunately, interrupting is a common occurrence.

We all do it at times. We get an idea while someone else is telling their story, and we blurt out what we want to say whether the speaker has finished or not.

So how can you avoid falling into this trap?

The first step is to catch yourself doing this. If you quickly apologize and stop talking, there’s no harm done. The speaker can pick up where she left off.

The problem is, you may be oblivious to this habit. And you could be ticking people off without realizing it.

This happened with my business partner Paula and me a few months ago. Since we’re a small company, we each juggle a lot of balls. And when we get on the phone to coordinate our projects, we’re moving fast. If one of us is talking and pauses for a second to catch our breath, the other sometimes jumps in too quickly. Or interrupts mid-sentence.

Fortunately, we both became aware of this unproductive pattern at about the same time. We discussed what we were doing – and why – and agreed to work on recognizing when we were doing it as we were doing it and give each other real-time feedback.

This solution has worked well. She’ll say, “You’re interrupting me” if I speak over her. I apologize and shut my mouth immediately so she can finish her sentence. And vice versa.

But that kind of exchange doesn’t happen often.

Instead, people raise their voices in an effort to be heard. Or the speaker may shut down and give up, deciding it’s not worth trying to finish.

The result is that what needs to be said doesn’t get said by the person who wants to say it…or heard by the one who needs to hear it.

Just a few vital reasons why you need to stop interrupting if you exhibit this habit:

  • You may miss important information that the person needs to tell you.
  • You send a message to others that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say.
  • You don’t learn anything when you’re speaking.
  • You’re communicating that you don’t have the patience or self-discipline to wait.

These behaviors push people away and damage relationships.

Start monitoring yourself during conversations. If you find yourself about to jump in before the speaker has finished talking, stop yourself. Focus on the words and meaning of what’s being said. You’ll be less likely to jump in with your own opinions if you’re trying hard to understand theirs.

“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
Deborah Tannen, Author and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University


by Meredith Bell, President of Performance Support Systems, Inc.
Performance Support Systems, Inc. (PSS) is a software company based in Newport News, Virginia.
Their goal since 1987 has been to create assessment and development resources to help people become stronger for work and life.  You can subscribe to Meredith Bell’s Golden Eggs ezine on this page.