10 Things Not To Say At Work

We all know that presentation matters. You need to dress for the job you want, and you want to generally represent yourself as a competent, intelligent, professional human being, if you want to be taken seriously — and get your way as often as possible. And really, who doesn’t want that?

A huge piece of that? The way you speak. Sure, your ideas are great, and you’re always right. But are you undermining all of that brilliance in the way you formulate your sentences? We’ve all heard about uptalk and how it makes you seem less self-assured, but that’s not the only secret saboteur you’ve probably got hiding in your everyday vocabulary. 

We spoke with Tara Sophia Mohr, a career coach whose 10 Rules for Brilliant Women is pretty much the rulebook, when it comes to getting ahead. She dished the 10 things you’re probably saying all the time, that are working against you. We found ourselves guilty of more of these than we’d like to admit, but hey, at least now we know. 

Read on — and proceed to erase these from your daily speech, stat. 


1. Does that make sense? 
Many women end their statements with,“Does that make sense?” or “Do you know what I mean?”. We do this because we want to make sure we were understood, but this phrasing suggests you think you were incoherent. Instead, ask your listeners, “What are your thoughts?” or say, “Let me know if you have questions about this” instead of the undermining, “Did that make sense?”

2. Just
“I just want to check in and see…” “I’m just concerned that…” We insert justs because we’re worried about coming on too strong, but they make the speaker sound defensive, a little whiny and tentative. Drop ’em! 

3. Actually
“I actually think…” “I actually have a question.” Those actuallys make it sound like you are surprised that you have a question or that you disagree! 

4. Sorry, but…
“Sorry to bother you but…” “Sorry if this is a silly question, but…” Don’t apologize for taking up space, or for having something to say.

5. Just a minute and Just a little bit
“I’d like to take just a few minutes of your time” or “I’d like to tell you a little bit about our new product.” Sure, be efficient and succinct — and don’t take up more time that you need — but drop the apologetic words about infringing on another person’s time. What you have to share is important and worthwhile; convey that, instead. 


6. Kind of and Almost
“I almost think we should go a different direction.” “I kind of think the report should be reorganized this way.” We tend to use these words when we’re unsure about our ideas or worried about offending others, but these qualifiers don’t really help with that; they just make our words less powerful. 

7. Undermining qualifiers
“I’m just thinking off the top of my head, but…” or “You all have been thinking about this a lot longer than I have, but…” or “I’m no expert, but…” Don’t tell people why what you are about to say is likely to be wrong. Lead with confidence in the knowledge that your ideas and insights matter. 

8. Uptalk
Yep, you know all about this one, but it’s important to include. In the English language, we raise our pitch at the end of yes/no questions. But, when you raise your pitch at the end of a statement, it makes you sound tentative, questioning, like you are unsure about what you are saying. Start paying attention to lowering your tone at the end of your statements — chances are good that you do it even when you’re not uncertain. 

9. Rushing and piling on the words
When we don’t feel we have the right to take up space in a meeting or conversation, we tend to rush through our words. We also tend to pile up phrases into one long string — instead of using concise sentences with clear endings. Short sentences and brief pauses between those sentences connote confidence and a sense of comfort in the role of speaker. They also allow the listener to absorb what you are saying and give you a moment to gather a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Punctuate and pause. 

10. Shrinking your space
This isn’t about speech patterns, but it does change the way people react to what you’re saying. Notice if the way you sit or stand shrinks the amount of physical space you are taking up. Take up room, uncross your hands or arms, sit tall, and make eye contact. Basically, be noticed.

Designed by: Sydney Hass

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