For individuals in business to team sports, intimidation is a tactic that can be used to control people as well as instill a sense of fear. However, intimidation works best when you use the right words to gain that competitive edge. The five negative words listed below may seem harmless but can be very powerful ways to affect how someone else will feel. You can also choose to remove them from your vocabulary if you didn’t realize or want the effect that they can cause.

1. Coherence

Sticking together is important, but if you’re not communicating in your relationship — whether if it’s your marriage or business partner — it’s not going to turn out very well. This lack of communication often is used to intimidate the other person because telling another person that they don’t make any sense can often leave them struggling to defend themselves. It may also impact their self-esteem and confidence if they believe the other person’s claim that they are incoherent when they talk and therefore the blame for any problems in the professional or personal relationship. 

Intimidation usage: “I hear only rambling and mumbling when you speak; there is no coherence.”

2. Dispirit

I remember when I told my younger brother that Santa wasn’t real. He was crushed, which made me feel horrible as soon as I realized that it would have that effect. Depriving someone of their beliefs, values, faith, or enthusiasm is one of the worst things that you could to someone so in order to turn it around on them and gain ground when this happens, the word, dispirit, can be thrown at them. That’s because this word is intended to make that person feel guilty about what they have done or said. 

Intimidation usage: “Every time I speak with you I feel dispirited.” Or,you can say this within the hearing of someone you want to suck the energy from, “Oh yes, Sally is always dispirited.” Or, “Sally causes everyone to be dispirited.”

3. Hound

How do you feel when a colleague, manager, or spouse keeps going after you to complete an assignment or a project? It can start to feel really annoying and stressful. When someone is pressuring you, a word like “hound” can turn it back on them because it makes them sound as though they are harassing you. This can put them off, especially when said in front of others, and provide some space to get what you need done without having them nagging you. However, some people use this to intimidate others when they know they have fallen down on their own responsibilities and are trying to deflect that fact.

Intimidation usage: “Do you always have to hound me?” Or, “Look, here he comes to hound me.”

4. Manipulate

Do you really want to be controlled by someone else? The idea that you are being manipulated never makes anyone feel good because they realize they are letting someone else control their emotions or actions. Therefore, the word has gained a very negative connotation.  To intimidate someone, a person who is actually manipulative can turn the table and say that someone else is manipulating them. That leaves that other person in a corner where if they deny it may look guilty to others or if they ignore it may still be still be like an elephant in the room. 

Intimidation usage: “I don’t want to work with her because she’s manipulative.”

5. Nonconform

Close your eyes and think of the synonyms for nonconformity. Do words like breach, dissent, lawlessness, or unorthodox come to mind? If so, you’re not alone. While people who are considered nonconformist are actually better team players, the word itself has a negative association. Many use this word in an intimidating way to get people to do what they want out of fear and guilt at somehow being thought as different and outside of the norm. What it does is alienate people rather than encouraging them for being originals or unique.

Intimidation usage: “He just isn’t a team player because he thinks he’s got to be the nonconformist.”

Focusing on Positive Words That Encourage and Motivate

You may have had these words used on you or maybe even used them yourself on others. If someone has used these to try and intimidate you, then you know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of what becomes a negative experience.

These are unproductive words when used in this way and do not tend to motivate or bring out the best. Try to use them sparingly or strike them from your vocabulary. Instead, think of words that are positive and can be used to get what you want from others without controlling them or making them feel guilty.

You may even find that focusing on more positive words will result in greater motivation, willingness to participate and share, better work and personal relationships, and increased productivity.