The words we use carry weight. By that, I mean we expose a lot more about ourselves than we realize through the words we choose. I hear a lot of words and phrases in both formal and casual conversation where people may not realize they are working against themselves! Here’s my top ten list of words and phrases to stop using immediately. Feel free to read through my selections, and let’s discuss more in the comments below.
When you qualify statements by saying “honestly” or “to be honest” you are implying that you might not otherwise be telling the truth. The same goes for similar words or phases like “truthfully” or “seriously.”
When you say, “Honestly, this these changes are not that difficult,” they think: OK, have you been lying to me all along, so much so that you need to tell me specifically when you’re being truthful?
Saying this you’re probably just trying to emphasize your point. Instead, substitute phrases like “Can I be direct?” or “You might be surprised to know” or “Actually.”
Words of this type devalue the product or services you’re providing. Think about it… Would you really want a “band-aid solution” or a “quick an dirty fix?”
When you say, “We have an easy solution for this that’s quick and cheap,” they think: If it’s so easy, why do we need you? What kind of headaches will taking this shortcut cause in the future?
Using these types of words you’re probably trying to dispel some of their fears about time or cost. Try using more artful euphemisms like “cost effective” and “straightforward” that don’t have bad connotations.
Using all-or-nothing words is asking for trouble! They often trap you in an unintended lie. And if it’s actually true, it may be so unbelievable that your statement won’t be taken seriously.
In an interview, someone once told me, “Oh, I’ve never been late for work in my life.” I thought, In 20 years you’ve never got caught in traffic? Gotten sick? Been even 1 second late, ever? If I’m being lied to about this, what else would you lie to me about?
Really, you’re just trying to indicate how great you are at something. You can get the point across just as well by qualifying your all-or-nothing word with “nearly,” “almost,” “most,” or “rarely.”
When you agree with something then say “but” or “however,” you are instantly invalidating your agreement. As some would say, “Everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit!”
When you say, “I love your solution, but we should…” they think: Um, if you really loved it you wouldn’t be ripping it apart right now!
Don’t agree if you actually don’t agree! If you do agree and want to add something, replace “but” with “and.” (See how I just did that?)
“Does That Make Sense?”
This can be condescending to your audience. The clearer your statement or point preceding it, the more condescending it sounds!
When they ask, “As you can see from the slide, we have 4 service areas. Does that make sense?” Yeah, we can all read and count. Do you think we’re that dumb?
You’re probably just looking for some reaction before continuing. Instead, ask “Any questions before we move on?”
Sure, sometimes “maybe” is a perfectly valid answer. Problem is, it feels like a major cop out or you’re avoiding giving an answer they don’t want to hear.
When they ask, “Does your product provide reports?” and you answer with “Maybe…” they think you’re avoiding telling them it doesn’t.
If you’re answer is “maybe” you probably just need more information to get more definitive. Say, “It’s possible, but it depends on these things…” or ask “I’m not sure, can you tell me more about why that’s important to you?”
Usually, this just indicates an offensive statement is coming. Asking for forgiveness upfront doesn’t make it any less hurtful!
When you say, “No offense, but the current system that you built is the worst I’ve seen!” it hurts (bad) even whether or not you said “no offense.”
You’re trying to lessen the pain you’re able to dole out. Soften up your statement instead of being so offensive: From the example: “Gosh, your system seems really, really cumbersome and frustrating to use. I hope we can help you out!”
If it’s already obvious, you don’t need to state it. If it’s not obvious, you’re going to make the other party feel dumb that they don’t know it. “As you know” is another similar phrase to avoid.
When you say, “Obviously, we’re the biggest player in the industry…” they wonder, Should I have known that? Did I not do enough research? Is it obvious to everyone but me?
Just leave it out and make your statement flat without it. If you need to add something, try saying “this might be obvious” instead.
“In My Opinion”
Many of the things we say are our opinions, representative of ourselves or our company. Why bother stating this?
Saying, “In our opinion, this is the plan we should use,” they think: Of course you prefer your own plan! What about my thoughts?
You’re saying this because you potentially want other opinions, right? So, try out “I’m thinking that” or “To me, it seems like” or “Our recommendation is” as alternative phrasings.
To “assume” makes an ass out of you and me, as you may have heard! When you say things like that or “you know” or “you’re already aware,” you could be alienating your audience.
Saying “I assume everyone is familiar with this process,” the one person who isn’t is now afraid to admit that they don’t know what’s going on and need some explanation or a refresher.
Soften it up by saying “hopefully” instead or say “I’m not sure everyone is familiar with _____, should I explain it?”
What do you think? Did I miss some of your least favorite ones? Let’s make this a top 20 list in the comments! I’d love to discuss more frustratingly terrible words and phrase–so I can avoid using them in the future!
About the Author: Obviously, I’m Ben Klopfer VP Sales at eimagine, but you knew that already. I always write quick and easy blog articles that (in my opinion) are the best ever. No offense, but honestly everything else out there is crap. Now, did all that make sense?