the buzz on hr

March 9, 2017

5 Phrases to Stop Using in 2017

Words matter.

As someone who loves writing and spent decades in nerdy activities like theater and debate club, I know words matter.

And I know verbal fillers are often a hindrance to us and our messages being taken seriously.

A couple times a year, I reflect on the words I use frequently and eliminate phrases I believe have potential to hurt my message or my reputation.

I’ve shared thoughts on this before:

Here are the 5 phrases I’m eliminating from my lexicon in 2017:

  • “Let me know if there are any questions” … This phrase is passive-aggressive and unnecessary. If you’ve created a culture where professional curiosity and clarity is welcomed, you shouldn’t need to give people permission to ask questions. If that isn’t your organization’s culture, work on that — starting with letting the passive-aggressive phrases go.
  • “I think” … This phrase is self-defeating and unnecessary. If you are speaking or writing, it is safe to say the words are your thoughts. If they weren’t you’d say “Bob thinks” or “Jane thinks”. By classifying your thoughts as your own, you actually damage your credibility and appear to lack confidence. If you cannot speak with confidence and credibility, it is always best to be quiet.
  • “Basically” and “Accordingly” … These are passive-aggressive words masking as authoritative words. Authority doesn’t have to assert itself. If you have it, everyone will know and behave accordingly ūüėČ
  • “The problem is” … If you’re using this phrase, it better be followed up by a recommended solutions. Otherwise,¬†you look whiny and incapable. Or worse — you look unwilling or uncaring. Build your reputation as a problem solver, not a problem proclaimer.
  • “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best” … Just like “I think,” this is self-defeating and unnecessary. You should always be trying and/or doing your best. When you declare it on certain occasions, it calls your efforts at other times into ¬†question. And it makes you appear to lack confidence in your abilities.

What we say has power over ourselves and others. Don’t let that power work against you. Be mindful of these phrases and others that are working contrary to your goals.

Change your language. Change your life.


  1. Kyle Montgomery

    March 15th, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Sarah, I’m with you…let’s drop “I’ll try”. In the immortal words of our little green friend and Jedi Master: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

  2. Sarah Morgan

    March 15th, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Absolutely! Yoda knows best.

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