Welcome to Breaking the Blueprint — a blog series that dives into the unique business challenges and opportunities of underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn how they’ve grown or scaled their businesses, explored entrepreneurial ventures within their companies, or created side hustles, and how their stories can inspire and inform your own success.

A single word can make or break a relationship, especially in its early stages. This includes relationships with sales prospects, clients, and co-workers.

Most of us were raised to think that language and action are two separate things. That words don’t really matter. That an issue involving language is “just semantics.”

But in more than two decades of researching how language actually works, I’ve learned that language is social action. In fact, every single thing you say or write can cause a relationship to improve or deteriorate.

By paying attention to our language and making sure we’re using the more inclusive version, we can avoid painful mistakes. Here are three ways you can make sure that your language makes people feel recognized, taken into consideration, and valued.