What you say matters. Whether you’re voicing an idea during a meeting or making an offhand comment at lunch, everything you say adds to your overall character.
In the new book “Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett says three things signal whether a professional is leadership material: how they act, how they look, and how they speak.
Speaking eloquently not only improves your daily communications, it builds up your overall persona and executive presence. “Every verbal encounter is a vital opportunity to create and nurture a positive impression,” Hewlett writes.
Some phrases instantly undermine your authority and professionalism, and should be banned from the office. Here are 11 things you should never say at work:
1. “Does that make sense?”
Instead of making sure you’re understood, asking this tells the listener that you don’t fully understand the idea yourself, career coach Tara Sophia Mohr told Refinery 29. Instead, she suggests asking, “What are your thoughts?”
2. “It’s not fair.”
Simply complaining about an injustice isn’t going to change the situation. “Whether it’s a troubling issue at work or a serious problem for the planet, the point in avoiding this phrase is to be proactive about the issues versus complaining, or worse, passively whining,” Darlene Price, author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results” told Forbes.
3. “I haven’t had time.”
“More often than not, this is simply not true,” said Atle Skalleberg in a LinkedIn post. Whether you didn’t make time for the task or forgot about it, Skalleberg suggests giving a time when it will be done instead of explaining why it’s late.
Adding “just” as a filler word in sentences, such as saying “I just want to check if…” or “I just think that…” may seem harmless, but it can detract from what you’re saying. “We insert justs because we’re worried about coming on too strong,” says Mohr, “but they make the speaker sound defensive, a little whiny, and tentative.” Leave them out, and you’ll speak with more authority.
5. “But I sent it in an email a week ago.”
If someone doesn’t get back to you, it’s your job to follow up, says Skalleberg. Be proactive when communicating instead of letting the other person take the blame.
6. “I hate…” or “It’s so annoying when…”
Insults have no place in the office, especially when directed at a specific person or company practice. “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able,” says Price.
7. “That’s not my responsibility.”
Even if it’s not your specific duty, stepping up to help shows that you’re a team player and willing to go the extra mile. “At the end of the day, we’re all responsible,” Skalleberg says.
8. “You should have…”
“Chances are, these fault-finding words inflict feelings of blame and finger-pointing,” Price says. She suggests using a positive approach instead, such as saying, “In the future, I recommend…”
9. “I may be wrong, but…”
Price calls this kind of language “discounting,” meaning that it immediately reduces the impact of whatever you’re about to say. “Eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans the importance of who you are or lessens the significance of what you contribute,” she says.
10. “Sorry, but…”
This implies that you’re automatically being annoying. “Don’t apologise for taking up space, or for having something to say,” says Mohr.
Prefacing sentences with this word, as in, “Actually, it’s right over there,” or “Actually, you can do it this way,” puts distance between you and the listener by hinting that they were somehow wrong, according to Carolyn Kopprasch, chief happiness officer at Buffer. Rephrase to create a more positive sentiment.
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