Don’t Say It!: 7 Words & Phrases That May Be Sabotaging Your Professional Credibility

IMG_5917In life, there’s a certain level of integrity you can exude to others based solely on the words and language you decide to use. The best advice we can take from our elders on this subject is to always aim for gravitas, for this is how one can make the best impression and endear others to you.

This concept translates neatly to the business world, where exuding executive presence is your gravitas. As you may know, EP is partly tied up in language choices, giving you good reason to carefully monitor the ways in which you speak. That being said, mastering the linguistic end of EP isn’t just about avoiding cuss words and straightening out your grammar. It’s also about being aware of the proper speech you’re using that may be unintentionally conveying sour, inauthentic or otherwise unappealing sentiments, stripping you of that hard-earned gravitas in a New York Minute.TMBG

Last year I blogged about the trendy and “unspeakable” speech that we should avoid at all costs. A few years before that, the comical indie music band They Might Be Giants posted a list of the cliché words and phrases that they’ve banned each other from using. Today, I’m taking yet another approach to inspiring everyone to think before we speak. The following 7 innocent-sounding words and phrases may be sabotaging your executive presence in business. Consider whether you’ve used them in the past, think about how they sound to the recipient, and stop yourself each time you’re tempted to let them leave your lips.

“I’m So Busy”

My complaint here is this: Since when did “busy” become a state of being, like happiness or frustration? Typically, what “busy” implies is that you’re not. Admitting to a colleague or client that you feel too busy with work not only sounds like a complaint, but it might also come off as a subtle way of communicating that you don’t have time for them. The other side of “busy” is when we attempt to equate busyness to social worth, trying to come off as important simply because we’re busy. It’s arrogant, and will not earn you any allies.


This one is relevant especially for women. We ladies are entirely too eager to apologize, even when we’ve done or said nothing that warrants an apology. If you find that your spoken language is riddled with the words “I’m sorry”, stand up for yourself, and show a little EP in the process. You might find yourself gaining more respect from others.

“I Should”

Suggesting that you “should” do or change something is, by its very nature, a bit watered down. If you really want to convey to a colleague or a manager that your intensions are legitimate, replace “should” with “will”. Just this simple language trade-out will lend to your credibility, and may actually inspire you to do the thing you promised.

IMG_5882“Let Me Pick Your Brain”

Besides sounding icky, “Lemme pick ye brain” implies that an energy suck is about to unfold. You’re basically telling the other person that you’d like to engage in a one-sided conversation wherein you’ll be tapping into them for information without offering any of your own in return. A more subtle and confident approach could be to request an idea-sharing session, and to proceed to engage in just that.

“Phone Tag”

Where “pick your brain” sounds icky, this one is just plain silly and outdated. Even worse, it’s impolite. When you leave your client a voice message that merely states your name and that you’re now officially playing phone tag with them, it doesn’t offer them much information to go on. Opt instead to skip the phone tag reference, and leave some details. It’s an easy way to drop a little EP.

“Everybody” or “Nobody”

When you start a statement with either of these two words, it’s highly likely that you’re making a false accusation. There aren’t too many things in this world that everybody unanimously believes, or that absolutely nobody wants. If you’d rather not be associated with sounding unrealistic, think before you speak, and replace these words accordingly.

“Never” or “Always”

Much like with the previous sentiment, there are few circumstances that are never or always the case. Unless you have a good reason to get scientific at the office, it might be beneficial to your credibility to stick within the safety zone of “sometimes” and “often”. Remember: It’s all about gravitas!

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