Words can be powerful. They can make or break how you appear to the world. We often try really hard to not say the wrong things, or not sound stupid. But our effort can sometimes harm our credibility with others.
You can mean well, but if you use the wrong expressions, all your effort can still go down the drain. Have you ever listened to someone and got the feeling that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Chances are that person is using counterproductive phrases that undermine their credibility.
To help you avoid getting into that situation, we have gathered 10 phrases you should steer away from if you want to maintain the trust of your audience.
10 common phrases that can ruin your credibility
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“To be honest”
Phrases of this kind like ‘honestly’, ‘to be frank’, ‘I’ll be honest’ all have the same foreboding nuance that the thing that was said before may not be true.
If you say, “We hope to be there at 8, but to be honest, ..” The focus will be drawn to the second half of what was said and so it implies that the first half is not true.
“In my opinion”
This rhetorical device is great for when you’re just trying to give your two cents in a casual conversation. That way nobody gets hurt. But when you are in a formal setting where you really have to persuade your audience, this may do more harm than good.
Variations of this include, “in my humble opinion”, “it’s just my opinion”.
Giving your views the “opinion” tag can weaken your statement. It implies that what you have to say is totally biased and not a rational argument.
“You may have already known this, but… “
Sometimes you might use this caveat to sound more humble and accommodating. But in fact, you are suggesting that your input is redundant and not worthy of your audience’s time.
So either you keep your thoughts to yourself or present them fresh as new. It wouldn’t hurt you if your listeners have already known the information anyway.
“I’m not sure”
When someone says he is not sure, we don’t need any confirmation to jump right into the presumption that the person is, in fact, don’t have the authority to give any opinion. Especially, when the “not sure” is placed at the beginning, chances are the listeners might not even be there anymore for the rest of the sentence.
Try to avoid expressions that scream “don’t listen to me”. Just state your opinion and others will listen.
“I could be wrong”
When you’re not trying to offend anyone when having a conversation with friends then sure, this phrase can be handy. But when you need to be persuasive, this expression can risk showing your uncertainty.
Imagine a doctor, when giving you a diagnosis, says: “This is not very serious, but I could be wrong.” It’s confusing and we feel like we cannot trust his verdict at all.
“This is probably a stupid question”
When you disregard your own question as stupid, chances are the person being asked will do so as well. Say, a term comes up during a conversation with a colleague that you don’t know and you ask, “This might sound stupid but what does that mean?”. It will seem that you lack knowledge of the topic and will lose points immediately. While if you just go ahead and ask, no one would bat an eye.
No question is stupid, so don’t sell yourself short. Just ask your question, and move forward.
“Just a thought”
This expression has less of a credibility killer vibe than it is authoritarian. We often hear this phrase being said during a meeting when our boss wants to add something but doesn’t want to sound too imposing. Though the intention is good, it often makes us feel even worse.
There are better ways to voice your opinion that do not leave the impression of dismissing the other person’s proposal.
“If you don’t mind”
This expression sounds like it’s just harmless politeness but in fact, it can weaken you and even annoy the person being asked.
The phrase “if you don’t mind” makes it sound like the questioner is trying to probe into a territory she does not belong to. Worse yet, it might even hint that what is being asked is offensive.
Saying “maybe” gives the impression of uncertainty. It takes away from your confidence and weakens your credibility.
It is also often used when someone doesn’t want to say something outright. So it can generate a negative feeling when your listeners get the gist that you are not being fully honest.
“Kind of” is another expression to avoid as it shows that you are not investing in the conversation. It gives the impression of nonchalance and disconnection.
The phrase can also make you appear unconfident and not really sure what you are talking about.
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