Think of the last presentation you witnessed. How many times did the speaker say “um” and “uh”? If it happened frequently, then it may have affected your ability to retain information or key points—and more importantly, it could have caused you to think less of the person speaking. It sounds harsh, but it’s true: Words have the power to help or hinder both performance and perception, especially in the workplace.
Here are seven common phrases to eliminate from your work vocabulary today, so that you can sound like the confident, competent person you already are.
1. “Let Me Know”
Saying “let me know!” at the end of an email chain, meeting or conversation seems like a good idea. It sounds so polite and respectful! Well, yes, but it isn’t helpful. It doesn’t outline next steps or identify action items. It provides no clear direction. And worst of all, it puts the onus on someone else (i.e., not you) to do the work of decision-making in order to prevent stagnation on a solution or project.
In an age of full inboxes and packed schedules and meeting overload, you’ll stand out by taking initiative. Start with the questions at hand: Does a meeting need to be scheduled? Should a call be made? Can a draft be created? What sort of deadline is required? Are there notes or resources to be located? Focus on figuring out what you can do to provide value in the short-term, and then articulate exactly that with as many deadlines and details as possible.
For example, instead of telling your boss, “Let me know if I can help with the budget proposal,” say, “I’ll call Mary today to follow up on the proposal draft so we can meet the budget deadline.”
2. “I Feel Like”
We’ve all been there: that moment when you say, “I feel like…” and sound like a Valley Girl to the nth degree. This phrase is commonly used to frame an idea or viewpoint when we are feeling unsure; we throw it out there as self-protection in light of anticipated criticism. Removing these words from your career lexicon allows you to be taken more seriously, and honestly, it’s more effective.
Imagine telling your boss, “I feel like I should get a raise.” She or he would most likely ask for reasons why you deserve a raise, what you’ve accomplished thus far to validate a raise, what percentage of an increase seems reasonable and so on. A better approach, then, is to say: “I’d like to be considered for a raise this year, because of X, Y and Z.” Cut to the chase and say what you really mean.
3. “No Problem”
I used to reply with an automatic, upbeat “No problem!” when someone said, “Thank you.” I did this for everything from tiny tasks to major milestones, acting like it was no big deal even though I secretly appreciated the show of gratitude for my effort. “Why can’t I just say ‘you’re welcome’?” I finally wondered.
Insert lightbulb moment. For some reason, I thought acknowledging a compliment contrasted with being humble, and that’s simply not true. When you say, “You’re welcome,” you’re actually saying, “Yes, I did that for you!” It feels good to be noticed, recognized and appreciated; furthermore, it often makes the person thanking you feel warm fuzzies inside, too.