Words have power. And while sometimes we may say the wrong thing at the wrong time, there are certain phrases that many of us use regularly that destroy our credibility with others.
No matter how well-intentioned we may be, when we are trying to gain the credibility and trust of others, we must be careful with our words. Have you ever spoken to someone and thought, “This person doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about,”? The reason you thought that, is because they used words and phrases that were counter-productive to their credibility.
When you have worked diligently to earn a name or reputation for yourself, it’s such a waste to ruin that by accidentally using the wrong phrases. Here are 10 phrases you should avoid at all costs.
For those looking to delve into the psychological aspects of impactful speaking, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion“ by Robert B. Cialdini can be an enlightening exploration into understanding the principles of persuasive communication.
If you start many of your sentences with the word “sorry,” it will make your employers and others doubt your credibility. They may worry you are incompetent, and according to expert Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College, it makes it seem like if you did make a mistake, you wouldn’t fully own up to it.
Another linguistics expert, Deborah Tannen says to avoid using words like maybe because they are usually used when we don’t want to say something outright. It starts off your phrase in a way that undermines your confidence, and if you don’t have confidence in yourself, no one will.
3. I think…
Either you think or you know. Saying “I think,” makes it sound like you are unsure of yourself right off the bat. In turn, the person you are talking to will feel unsure of you as well.
4. Kind of.
When we say “kind of,” it means we aren’t fully invested in what we are saying. We are saying the phrase haphazardly, which can make us appear not only unconfident, but also as though we don’t know what we are talking about.
5. To be honest.
If what you are saying is 100% out of honesty, then there is no need to say this. Unless you aren’t honest all the time. And using this phrase makes it seem like you aren’t always honest.
6. In my opinion…
This phrase is completely unnecessary. The person you are talking to already knows that what you are saying is your opinion because you are the one saying it.
7. This may be a stupid question, but…
Using this phrase will destroy your credibility before you ever even get started. By saying it, you are saying, “Don’t listen to what I have to say, because what I’m saying is stupid.” No question is stupid, so don’t sell yourself short. Just ask your question, and move forward.
8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but…
The reason this phrase destroys your credibility is that it tells the other person that you don’t believe in what you are saying. It sends the signal that you are most likely wrong, and need the other person to correct you. In a business setting or professional setting, this phrase will get you nowhere.
9. Definitely, really, really., absolutely.
Fought says that when you say this, you are sending the opposite message. “It weakens your credibility in some ways because if you have to tell us how really, really, really great this trip was, maybe it wasn’t that great,” she says.
Have you ever listened to someone talk who constantly says “like,” or “uhm,” the entire time they talk. No matter how intelligent the rest of your conversation sounds, these words are going to demean your intelligence every time. If you want to be heard, without judgment or doubt, don’t use these words!
To further your understanding of effective communication, “How to Speak So People Really Listen“ by Paul McGee is a recommended read that offers insights into speaking with clarity and confidence.