Certain Words and Phrases Can Undermine Your Credibility

two women shaking hands
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During the month of June, my posts have been focused on interpersonal communications skills. In this post, words and phrases that can undermine your credibility.

In your work, it’s important to be taken seriously and develop a good reputation among peers, bosses and clients. But sometimes, language can undermine your credibility without you even realizing it.

Communications skills are vital in every business setting, but sometimes gets overlooked in the digital workplace. The way we communicate says a lot about our professionalism and credibility. The way we communicate can reveal our level of confidence – or lack thereof. The last thing you want to do is undermine yourself in front of bosses or clients, especially potential clients.

Every time you speak, you may be sabotaging yourself with your language  which can impact your success in business and in your relationships. The most disconcerting thing is that most of the time, you may not be aware of how you’re putting a roadblock in your business success with your words and phrases.

So which words and phrases should we avoid? Career and presentation experts say the following are the biggest culprits.

1) “I’m no expert,” “I may be wrong,” and “This might sound crazy”

Experts say these phrases appear to warn listeners that what you’re about to say is trivial and irrelevant and not to be taken seriously. You come across as insecure in your thoughts. Why would they take your statement seriously if you don’t?

Before: “I may be wrong, but shouldn’t we do a little more market research before launching the new product line?”

Preferred: “Shouldn’t we do a little more market research before launching the new product line?”

2) “Just,” “I just thought,” etc.

Similar to the phrases above, any phrase containing the word “just” expresses uncertainty about your statement. It downplays your message so recipients aren’t likely to take it seriously. When you eliminate the word “just” as well as its companion phrases, you’ll come across more assertive and confident.

Before: “It’s just that it might be better to delay the project until next week.”
Preferred: “It might be better to delay the project until next week.”

3) “Does this make sense?”

When you conclude your presentation or speech with this question, it’s as if you doubt your own words and you’re looking for confirmation from your audience that they understand you. But a much simpler way to accomplish that is to ask, “Do you have any questions?”

4) “I think,” “I believe,” and “I feel”

Experts say these phrases act as a buffer that dilutes your message and shows a lack of assertiveness. You can always replace it with more confidence-building terms such as “I’m confident” or “I’m optimistic.”

That said, I don’t think these phrases should be avoided altogether because they do have a place in our everyday language. Since they’re often used to express opinions, they may be better suited for casual conversations. If you want to make an impression, however, avoid these buffers.

Before: “I think you’ll be impressed with the new production.”
Preferred: “You’ll be impressed with the new production.” Or “I’m confident you’ll be impressed with the new production.”

5. Avoid fillers.

Ever listen to someone’s presentation filled with “um,” “you know,” “kind of,” and other meaningless phrases? Speaking that way lends doubt to the content of the presentation, writes Jerry Weissman, founder of Power Presentations, Ltd. The speaker comes across as ill-prepared and not very knowledgeable. They may know the information inside and out, but their presentation, complete with “ums” and “you knows,” makes you wonder if they really do know what they’re talking about.

According to Weissman, the following fillers should be avoided:

“Sort of”
“Kind of”
“Um”
“Actually”
“Basically”
“Really”
“Anyway”
“Pretty much”

For most people, the hardest part is being aware of their language and how they come across in presentations. Sometimes it’s easier to notice these transgressions when other people speak, but see if you can pay more attention to your own speaking habits. Maybe record yourself when you give a short speech. How many times do you fill your presentation with “ums,” “you knows,” etc.?

Communications are often filled with unnecessary words and phrases that can undermine your credibility in business situations. Be aware of how you speak and self-edit so you make a strong confident impression with everyone you meet.

Just for fun:
Stop Saying Sorry When You Want to Say Thank You — comic

What We Can Learn about Client Service from Nursing Professionals

first-aid-kitWhile recovering in the hospital after surgery recently, I had the chance to quietly observe the nurses and medical staff as they performed their jobs each day. Of particular interest to me was the way they interacted with me and the other patients on the floor. Their bedside manner spoke volumes about their integrity and professionalism.

These nurses earned my respect and admiration because, no matter how complex or dreadful the task – from cleaning bedpans to taking blood pressure readings – they always remained cheerful and courteous. They never let the pressure of the moment or the messiness of the task get them down. More important, they never allowed any personal judgments, prejudices or emotions they might have had to interfere with their interactions with patients.

Observing them in action made me think about how we interact with clients and colleagues. What kind of bedside manner do we show to our clients as we go about our business day?

I believe there is a lot we can learn by observing nursing professionals in action. What practices can we adopt in our own businesses to make sure our clients – our patients – are comfortable? What kind of “bedside manner” can we develop that reflects positively on us personally and professionally while giving our client-patients what they need? If we adopted the same cheerful disposition of most nurses, how would that impact our relationships with clients?

1. Be cheerful and courteous.

No matter what kind of day we are having, or what we may be experiencing in our personal lives, we can’t let those emotions interfere with our interactions with clients. Set aside whatever prejudices and personal dramas you have. Always be positive, and always put the client first. This is what they mean by “service with a smile.”

2. Offer assistance at every opportunity.

Check on your client-patients often. While in the hospital, a nurse or assistant checked on me every couple of hours, even if it was to ask, “How are you feeling? Do you need anything, any pain medication? Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.”

Schedule time to call on your clients, even if it’s just to say hello. Ask them how they are doing. Remind them that you are there to help them with whatever projects they have. Even if the call does not produce any immediate results, the fact that you called tells your client that they are important to you. And they will remember that the next time they need someone with your expertise.

3. Be patient with clients.

Hospital patients who have gone through surgery need time to rest and recover. They don’t move or respond quickly. They may feel groggy and achy. Give them time to heal. Allow them to move at their own pace. Your clients too may require extra care and patience when making a big decision that could impact their business. Give them the information and resources they need, but be gentle and patiently guide them to the decision that’s best for them.

4. Be thorough and efficient.

It’s natural for clients to ask questions, just as patients ask lots of questions of their medical team. This is an opportunity to really show your knowledgeable and compassionate side. Provide the information clients request, share different options for business solutions, and be clear with your instructions. Offer to repeat the information if clients don’t understand something. Doing your job thoroughly and efficiently shows that you respect your client’s time and demonstrates your professionalism.

Clients are our patients, and our “bedside manner” is our customer service. If we performed our responsibilities as cheerfully, competently and compassionately as nurses do, consider how much better our relationships would be with our clients, and how much better that would be for our business.