by Jenna Goudreau (Forbes staff writer)
“The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”—Mark Twain
Whether dealing with clients, coworkers or superiors, how you phrase and frame your message colors the way people perceive you. The words you choose may be the difference between being thought of as problem-solver or a problem.
From an informal poll of communication experts and career advisers, these 10 words emerged as the most common fillers, qualifiers and jargon that mean nothing and will get you nowhere. Erase them from your vocabulary immediately.
“Words are very important because they shape not only how other people hear you, but how they feel about you,” says Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners. “If you garner some kind of positive emotion, then you’ll make people care. Then you’re in a much better position for them to listen.”
However, too often business communication is peppered with filler words (umm, uh huh, well) that muddle the message, qualifiers (sort of, kind of, mostly) that diminish authority, and negative framing (can’t, impossible, never) that is discouraging and unproductive. In an informal poll of communication experts and career advisers, these 10 phrases were voted the worst things to say in your career.
That’s not my job.
“This makes it about what you can’t do as opposed to what you can do,” says Friedman. “It paints you as not being a team player.” Furthermore, it flies in the face of crucial career assets like flexibility and the willingness to learn new skills, which are required for leadership roles. Take it to a positive place by saying, “It’s not really my area of expertise. Let’s see who might be able to better help with this.”
Lorrie Thomas Ross, chief executive of consultancy Web Marketing Therapy, calls this and others like it (“I believe” and “I feel”) “discounting phrases.” They make you seem less authoritative and reduce the power of the message. The statement, “I think this is the best strategy,” is much weaker than, “This is the best strategy.” Likewise, eliminate prefaces like “I want” or “I’d like to.” So, rather than saying, “I want to thank you,” simply say, “Thank you.”