If you do a Google search for dreaded words in business, you’ll get millions of hits. That’s a lot of dread. And it’s a reminder that dread is contextual. Edward G. Brown thinks the most dreaded words in business are Got a minute? Shell Haffner thinks they’re improve productivity. Richard A. Moran thinks they’re unfortunately, downturn, and performance.

Dread also is a matter of relative perspective. Case in point: In the world of small business, in which opportunism is more than an abstract concept among companies that don’t have the bankable compound interest of corporate giants — and can’t afford to move at glacier speed — there are five words to be dreaded more than any others: I like and I don’t like.

I like and I don’t like have been responsible for more lost opportunity than any other words in the business lexicon. More graphic marks, websites, collateral materials, print ads, direct-mail campaigns, slide shows, video presentations, and God-knows-what have been put in limbo indefinitely — or precluded from seeing the light of day — because someone, who’s not a member of the target audience, didn’t like something that was of no consequence. (“But I don’t like green. I like pink.”)

Two parties lose in situations in which I like and I don’t like determine output: (1) The companies that never put whatever they didn’t like in the marketplace. (2) The potential buyers in the target audiences who never got to see the things that weren’t liked — new ideas; new corporate identities; new graphic languages; new reflections of brand; new representations, presences, and expressions of differentiation in old marketplaces.

You have to wonder how those so willing to preclude opportunity with I don’t like define risk and cost. They won’t risk trusting someone else’s judgment. And they don’t assess the opportunity cost of being risk-averse sole arbiters.

As dreaded words go, I like and I don’t like are right up there with make the logo bigger: They have nothing to do with substance, rationality, or objectives. They have everything to do with making The Boss happy.

I don’t like that.