Home » 4 Words That Kill Connection: Marc Jacobson (Full Transcript)

4 Words That Kill Connection: Marc Jacobson (Full Transcript)

Full text of Marc Jacobson’s talk: 4 Words That Kill Connection at TEDxDerryLondonderryStudio conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Marc Jacobson – Accident survivor

By the end of this talk we will reveal words and ways to communicate that potentially can change your life, your relationships and your ability to connect with people that others would have never thought possible.

Our business is based on connection and our research has discovered these lessons: by deleting FOUR simple words from your vocabulary and injecting their antidotes that will enable people to feel more connected to you.

I would like everyone for a second to close your eyes. Imagine lying on a cold metal table in no pain, one hour after the doctor gives you a 50:50 chance to survive the surgery, or a 50:50 chance that you may never walk again.

What would you promise to beat those odds? And more importantly, if you survived the surgery and could walk again, what would you want your life being like going forward?

Open your eyes.

Eight years ago, after lying on a cold metal table, these questions were upon me. It all began by making a right turn on red, I was suddenly hit from behind by an older driver; she simply just didn’t stop.

Unbeknownst to me, this accident had lit a fuse, a quest, a journey of creating connection with people that I never had before. A week later, I couldn’t raise my left arm. Physical therapy didn’t work, and my night turned into an ER visit.

The orthopedic says, “Good news! Your shoulder isn’t broken; your MRI is perfect; and you need to see a neurologist.”

I said, “Why?” I asked…

He said, “It’s your neck.”

“My neck? My neck feels great. What are you talking about? It’s my arm that’s paralyzed.”

He tells me the best neurologist he knows is about a month out, waiting time; but he’ll make the call for me.

The doctor leaves the room to make the call, which felt like an eternity. Comes back and says, “Tomorrow 8 a.m. at his office.”

This neurologist examines me the next day, I see fear hit his eyes.

“Everything okay, doc?”

He says, “We’re fine.”

My Spidey sense knows differently. He says, “All of your neck vertebrae cervical three to seven are not well. Let’s get you into a CAT scan right away.

The next phone call confirms my fears: he tells me to drive to the hospital as soon as I can, and while driving my head was spinning, fearing I would never be the same after this.

As I walk into the hospital, they immediately take me back. With a paralyzed left arm and a brave smile on my face, I’m hoping for the best.

As they unexpectedly collar me up, the doctor says “There’s a 50:50 chance that you’re not going to survive this operation, and 50:50 that you may never walk again.”

I said in a defending voice, “But doc, there’s no pain.”

He says, “I know, but CAT scans never lie.”

The world suddenly turns gray, and my body goes numb. Knowing this could be the last thing that I ever do, I reach for my phone and i text my two young children my thoughts and my wishes for them.

Being wheeled into surgery faster than I could comprehend, I entered the operating room and placed on a cold metal table. The next minutes were visions of people I wanted in my life and the ones I needed to escape from. My mind had never had such clarity; my thoughts in the last minutes were so clear and so focused that if I survived this, I knew things were going to be different.

The next thing I remember is I hear my name. After nine hours of surgery, I can barely focus: am I alive? am I dreaming?

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I hear, “Marc, wake up? You now have four titanium bars, eight titanium screws and four cadaver bones in your neck.”

Everything felt like a slow-motion movie. The doctor asked me to raise my left arm. No problem with that, I can feel it. He says, “Great!”

Before I get excited, he says something that I hope you never hear: “Marc, would you like to see if you could walk?”

And in the most subservient voice I’ve ever uttered, I said ‘I really would.’

Listening to his commands, my legs start to wobble and walk, not well but I’m standing. He says, “Great, get him down.”

This is the part that I’ll never forget that I want to share with you today. The doctor says four things to me, and the fourth lives with me every day.

One: ‘You’re the luckiest person I’ve ever met.’

Two: ‘You shouldn’t be alive.’

Three: ‘You’ve got my best work.’

And fourth: “You have a higher purpose.”

I was stuck in bed for a long time. During this time there was a lot of isolation, and I lost connection with so many people that had taken me years upon years to develop.

For the first time in my life, I realized I could now do what I wanted to do, instead of what I had to do. It didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with connection, and the words that kill it and their antidotes.

It brought me to this experience: whether personal, business or friendship, there are four words that kill connection, and four antidotes that create connection. This perhaps may allow each of you to connect with people who would have never thought to deal with you.

For example, have you ever spent an hour with someone, thought you had a great connection with them, and they never called you back: what is going on here? Let’s explore this deeper.

What does it take to create connection? And more importantly, how can we understand how four simple words can unlock something that you may have thought about since you were a child?

These words are common words that possess power that we don’t think about, the results were fascinating to me, and I want to share them with you, so let’s get to this.

We have all gone to dinner with friends and heard a person say the ‘I’ word one too many times: I did this; I did this; I’m going here thinking to yourself oh my god there’s enough tequila in the room to kill all the pain of this conversation, vowing not to see them again until the ring in your ear stops.

This is a reaction to the word ‘I’.  Next time you hear a speech, check out how many times a person says ‘I’ and then check out your feelings about the speech. You may be surprised.

In my opinion, if we replace ‘I’ with either ‘MY’, ‘WE’, or ‘ARE’, there’s a huge difference in how differently you’re perceived. Let me give you an example of the difference.

The next time you’re out with people, try using my opinion is, we believe, or our feelings — this will always trump: I think, I believe, or I feel.

The more you say the ‘I’ word, the worse the connection is going to be. ‘I’ needs to be replaced with ‘my’, ‘we’ or ‘are’.

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The next death word, and probably most over-used word is when you walk into a department store: ‘Can I help you?’

The normal reaction is, ‘No, I’m good’, that’s because the brain feels what do I look like? I need help? In fact, we would suggest to all of you, the only people that really need help are those that are drowning.

Having walked into a popular chain store, the person says, “Welcome to, how can I help you?”

I asked the person, “Our team is doing a study and needs his support.”

He says sure.

I ask how many people respond to your question.

He says, ‘not many, maybe one in 20.’

I said wow.

‘How about if we change this one word?’

‘Well, I’m not really sure of the company policy; what’s the word?’

I explained to him, it would be amazingly supportive to our work.

He says he’ll do this when no one’s around.

I come back three days later, huddled over a cup of coffee in the front of the store waiting for him. He sits down with a puzzled face and tells me that approximately 120 responded to the word ‘help’, however over 15 out of 20 responded to the substitution of one simple word. He says now he has a problem.

I said, what’s that?

Now I got to know where all this stuff’s at.

We changed one word and listen to how this sounds: “Welcome to… how can I support what you’re looking for?’

The power of unlocking your ability to connect are just words away if you understand how the supportive parts of connection is unlocked in the brain. ‘Help’ needs to be replaced with ‘support.’

Success is the next word. There are literally thousands upon thousands if not millions of books on success. In my opinion, success is an actionable and the most overworked word: am I successful? Are you successful? Who knows?

However, if we substitute one word, something fascinating happens. Everyone in this room can understand this word: potential. Specifically, your potential.

Living to your potential is like looking in a mirror; you see and somehow you can hold yourself accountable and who better to do this than you?

The great thing about potential is that it can grow. Think about it this way: ‘you’ll be successful if you reach your goals’, we’ve all heard this.

By a show of hands, has anybody ever hit an annual goal in September and coasted the rest of the year? Exactly. Success is measurable; potential is immeasurable.

Let me give you my favorite example: watching the special Olympics, I saw a person fall down and crawl 20 yards to the finish line. Most people would have said, ‘she was successful because she competed in the special Olympics.’

To me, she lived to her potential, because she finished the race which no one thought possible including me this day.

Your potential is what success never thought to ask for. Success needs to be replaced with potential.

The last word and the one that everyone cringes after they hear it, better yet let me give you an example of this: Have you ever been reviewed and heard great things about yourself and then you hear this word, it literally kills all the good you’ve just heard and sends shivers down your spine. The word is ‘but’.

Nothing good comes after the word ‘but’. If we replace ‘but’ with its antidotes, the results are absolutely incredible.

The great book by The Second City comedy club named ‘Yes, and’, talks about adding the word ‘and’ instead of the word ‘but’, shows a dramatic improvement in not only creativity but also in collaboration, all really important components of connection.

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As an example, you did this right, you did this right, you did this right, you all know what’s coming but you and your boss are having issues.

Believe me, 34 minutes of my life was taken from me when I did this in an annual review. All I heard about is how I got the story wrong, it was her, it was him and on and on and on; sound familiar anyone? You only remember and dwell on the word after the word ‘but’.

Another example is, have you ever heard someone said they’re really nice but nothing good is coming. What if we replace but with the word and.

Listen to how this sounds: you did this right, you did this right, you did this right, and if you and your boss could work out your issues, you’d probably be up for a big promotion. ‘And’ creates connection every time like clockwork.

At a large company our team was asked to consult with; they asked me to work with their top salespeople; we told them what we were thinking a little bit differently than what they were expecting.

We wanted to work with people in the sales department that weren’t performing, the people they were thinking of letting go, a room of puzzled faces asked me why would we want to do something like that.

We told them that we wanted to show them it was their training program and the words they were using and not their salespeople.

As the heads turned like a dog hearing a weird sound we offered them to double our consulting fee if our operation could take one person of their choice from last place to the number one position in 12 months.

I’m very proud to say that this person went from one million dollars in sales to 18 million dollars of sales 18 times 18 folds in the midst of a Covid environment someone prepaid airline tickets. We had nothing to do with their results; we simply supported their potential.

The ‘yes, but’ needs to be replaced with the ‘yes, and’.

The four death words are like a can of raid, they kill on contact, the four antidotes can create connection and allow your ability to unlock your potential.

The four death words and their antidotes in this chart. ‘I’ needs to be replaced with ‘my’ is good; ‘we’ is better; and ‘our’ is best.

‘Help’ needs to be replaced with ‘support’.

‘Success’ needs to be replaced with ‘potential.

‘But’ needs to be placed with ‘and’.

While this may sound simple, you may potentially need adult supervision in the process to hold yourself accountable.

In the spirit of my grandmother who once told me, “Reaching back to pull others forward can be the most rewarding thing you can do.”

It’s good to be alive and standing here today in so very many ways.

Thank you.

Resources for Further Reading:

Laura Jana: 5 Connections That Will Change Children’s Lives (Transcript)

How Words Create Worlds: Sebastien Christian at TEDxCambridge 2014 (Transcript)

Mohammed Qahtani: The Power of Words at Toastmasters International (Transcript)

Dr. Mark Holder: Three Words That Will Change Your Life at TEDxKelowna (Full Transcript)

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