My handyman was here today repairing my deck. I know what you’re thinking: no, I cannot repair my deck myself. If it were simply boards, I would have totally MacGyver’ed it, but this was a portion where a tree grows through a hole (that created more questions than answers, didn’t it?).
Anyway, the point, Joe, the point….
At one err….point….in our conversation he said, “…and as I always say….”
What a horrible phrase. If you’re telling me that you “always” tell people something, I’m going to listen less because it’s a rote statement, not something confined to our conversation. Had he not used that phrase, the rest of the sentence that followed would have carried more weight.
In her excellent book, Lions Don’t Need to Roar: Using the Leadership Power of Professional Presence to Stand Out, Fit in and Move Ahead, author DA Benton states that CEOs carry themselves differently than underlings. It’s true. One underling pointed out to me that whether I was in charge of a meeting or not, I assumed a power position at every table. I tried to sit either in the exact middle or on one end. I nearly always sat back away from the table. You knew I was in charge, or at least would have a voice in the proceedings. (The person who said it was annoyed that I had a way of taking over meetings, even when I didn’t mean for that to happen.)
Similar to positioning and modeling, the use of phrases can also make or ruin your effectiveness.
Here are five of the worst.
1) “If I’m being honest.” – Wow. Really? Before this I was pretty sure you were going to lie to me. Even if you mean it to soften the blow of what’s going to follow this phrase, I’d rather just hear it. Don’t let your audience think for a moment that anything you say is a lie.
2) “As I said earlier,” is similar to “as I always say.” If you have something to say that’s so awesome you should say it twice, just say it. When you remind me that you’re repeating yourself, I begin to feel sleepy.
3) “Can I ask a question?” You already did. Now ask your second question.
4) “I was gonna say….” I had a client that said this after every brilliant thought I ever uttered. After about the twelfth time I made a statement and he replied, “I was gonna say….” I realized he was never “gonna say” exactly what I was saying, which was disappointing because part of me was hoping he was really a mind reader. I could have been his agent and sold his rights to the circus and made a killing. Disappointment ensued.
5) “Know what I mean?” This is number five because I’m actually at peace with this phrase until about the third time you say it during a simple story. If you’re looking to build consensus, this phrase can build empathy. After several iterations, however, I’m just hoping that “what you mean” is that your tale is nearly finished.
These ticks seem harmless at first, and you may think I’m being overly critical. Maybe I am, but in communication the small things matter: the colors you wear, the way you nod, your hand motions. If I’m listening to you and all I can remember is that you said, “If I’m being honest….” I’m forgetting the important points you were trying to make. Relieving yourself of these catchphrases can help your communication, and therefore your career.
Know what I mean? If I’m being honest, I’d like you to share some of your pet peeves in the comments.
LOL, even just reading the paragraph titles grated on my nerves! I was terrible with #5, but I am working on it. 🙂 This reminds me of my stepdad, who always says “To make a long story short”, and then shares his 30 minute long, rambling story. 🙂
I actually have a serious problem saying “know what I mean?” in real life. I cannot stop doing it even though I’ve tried for years. It’s just so hard to change habits like that. Know what I mean?
Matt @ momanddadmoney
“part of me was hoping he was really a mind reader” HA! I have to be honest (see what I did there?), I’m guilty of several of these, especially the one I just used. I think I use “as I said before” a decent amount too. I actually think this article is something I might get some real use out of to make me stop sounding like an idiot.
Done by Forty
I think I might use the recorder on my phone the next I’m on a conference call and see what habitual phrases I use. Thanks for the reminder. “Can I ask a question” grates on me, too – it makes me think the speaker is weak. We’re not in class — no need to raise your hand or ask for permission. Just go for it.
Todd @ Fearless Men
I was gonna say that I thought up all of this before you did Joe.
Also, if you grew up on the streets as I did you’d “know what I mean.” If I’m being honest, I do kind of like what you write. But can I ask a question? It’s about what I always say, and that is when are you going to get that algorithm ready??
I hang my head in shame. If I’m being honest, I’m guilty of all of these, but since I would prefer to lie – I have never uttered these phrases. LOL. I have no doubt that I overuse phrases to the annoyance of people around me but what I have been most conscious of is regional inflection. I moved to DC shortly after we got married so I was this 6 foot blonde from SoCal who cringed every time she said, “like” even when, you know, it was like appropriate. 🙂
I hate anything like this. Me and my colleagues love playing “buzz word bingo”:
“If I am being honest” gets on my damn nerves. Stupid. And, one of my good friends always says “know what I mean” I usually just give him this annoyed look and lightly shake my head. My Grandma literally says “ya know it” after almost everything!! lol I am sure I say a host of annoying things as well.
Ha! Love it. I was gonna say… I fall into many of these word traps. Yet I get irritated, when I go into our weekly meetings and we ask “does anyone else have anything else to add?”. And everyone’s ‘like’ “No, but…” and then they ramble on for another half hour.
You should add “At the end of the day” and “might could” Ugh I can’t stand might could.
I’m in sales and I’m always guilty of #5. My pet peeve is people who tell me how honorable and honest they are. If you need to tell me that there’s something wrong with your morals.
I hate the phrase “lets take that offline” said in a meeting. We ARE offline. What you really mean is- let’s you and I discuss that later.
Stefanie @ brokeandbeau
Ugh, “Can I ask a question?” drives me nuts. Stop wasting my time and ask your question!
What about “I hear you.” I hope so! Or “I guess.” Just what part are you questioning?
Great to meet you at FinCon! Sorry about the joke, but I had to tease you a little bit!
“I’m just hoping that “what you mean” is that your tale is nearly finished.” ha ha! I had a friend always start to “can I be honest…” then proceed to insult me in some way. So of all of them I hate that one the most. It goes right up there with, “no offense but…” Well you’re going to offend me anyway, right?
“Can I be honest” may be the most brutal way ever to start a sentence. If you’re gonna insult me, just get it over with already. I’m sure you’re being honest….
Co-worker asked me, “Can I ask you a question?”
I said, “You just did.”
He said, “Can I ask you another question?”
I said, “You just did.”
Also irritating is the misuse of words. Examples: literally, absolutely and tons.
I asked the bicycle salesman if the lighter frame has an advantage.
He said, “Yes, tons. Literally.” So I shot him.