Communication is at the heart of everything we do. To be effective in any setting requires good communication skills. It’s how we connect with people and build relationships.
Paying attention to communication means paying attention to language and thinking about the effect of your words–especially words and phrases that could undermine your reputation and compromise your influence.
Here are seven phrases it pays to be mindful of:
1. “I’m not sure” Every time you say “I’m not sure,” you communicate uncertainty and a lack of confidence in your knowledge. You set a tone that encourages others to respond with uninformed opinions and baseless rebuttals.
2. “Honestly speaking” A phrase associated with the worst sort of PR flacks, honestly speaking leaves others wondering what you’re trying to hide. It also suggests that there are times when you speak less than honestly.
3. “So sorry” Of course, there’s a time and place where it’s appropriate to apologize, but “so sorry” is far overused. With repetition, the phrase has lost all meaning and just leaves an impression of insincerity.
4. “Literally” Consistently ranked as one of the most misused and overused words in the English language, literally is almost never necessary. Maybe the best thing is to literally stop using it.
5. “Like” Originally associated with ’80s-era Valley girls, like has found its way into leadership and business. It’s still useful for comparisons, but recent usage has made it more of a placeholder, a replacement for ummmmm and similar sounds. It doesn’t make you sound youthful, but it does diminish your perceived intelligence.
6. “I’ll try” When you say you’ll try, you often come across as uncertain or lacking in capability. It’s a phrase that can easily decrease the conviction someone might have in you or your work. Saying you will try is not the same as saying “I’ll do it.” Make a point of being clear about what you mean.
7. “Do you get what I’m saying?” This phrase can go wrong in a couple of ways–either that you’re talking down to the listener, or that you aren’t remotely sure whether your communication is effective. If you want to know whether someone understands what you’re saying, watch and listen to the person and ask the kinds of questions that actually further the conversation.
There are many other phrases that can come between you and your effectiveness in being a great leader and communicator. Really listen to yourself and check for patterns–and then work to eliminate anything that isn’t serving you well.