Verbal fillers come in different shapes and sizes. It is more than just “um”, “uh” and “like”. It can also be phrases or words we use so often their meaning and message get twisted and diminished.
Effective communication, both written and verbal, is theeeeee most important soft-skill you can develop. Effective communicators are more successful in their jobs. They are more productive in their tasks and projects, and in meeting deadlines. They are more respected and well-liked by their colleagues. They are more self-aware, conscious and mindful individuals.
Verbal fillers can be a stumbling block or a great big boulder in our effective communication at work.
Once in awhile, I like to reflect on the words and phrases I use most often and evaluate how effective they are at sending clear messages to not only get my point across but also line-up with my mindset and evolution.
Each time I reflect on this, I find some words and phrases that don’t belong in my lexicon anymore. Then I go to work eliminating and replacing them with better choices.
Here are 7 word & phrases to eliminate in 2019:
1) “Keep me posted.”
I’ll admit I use this phrase a lot and moving it out of my daily vocab is going to be tough. The reason why I’m eliminating it is two-fold:
First, it isn’t specific enough. Posted on what? Usually, what we’re asking to be kept posted on is complex. Posted can mean a number of different areas. The other party ends up either feeling confused about what to share or micromanaged for having to constantly update. You end up with too many or too few updates. Ask for what you want to know and set update intervals instead — or set yourself a reminder to follow up instead of putting the burden on the other person.
Second, I work with an amazing team. The managers who report to me and the groups who report to them know me well. And they know how to do their jobs without constant supervision as well as what decisions they can make on their own versus where my input or approval is needed. I feel like asking them to keep me posted is insulting and condescending. They already know that, they already do that, and they don’t need my verbal-filler as a reminder.
2) “Can I borrow you for a sec?”
People are not ink pens or cups of sugar. And time or effort once “borrowed” cannot be returned. Ask for the help you need and be honest about how much time it will take. Allow the other person the option to decline or to schedule the conversation for a time more convenient for them.
Along this same thought line, let’s go ahead and eliminate “I know you’re busy but …” and “Do you have a minute?” too!
3) “I Don’t WANT YOU TO take this the wrong way”
This phrase is usually followed by something rude, offensive or generally insensitive to the the other party. We preface the rude, offensive or generally insensitive thing to soften the blow for them. It never works. Instead, it comes across as though we carefully considered the other person’s feelings — then made a very deliberate choice to be rude, offensive or generally insensitive.
When I find myself wanting to use this phrase, I pause and reconsider what I’m about to say. I think about whether it is necessary to say the thing and, if it is, I think about the best way to say it so that I convey the intended message. I cannot ever control how the other party receives what I said. But if I am mindful of my word choice and my non-verbals, I put myself in the best position position to convey my message without confusion or prefacing.
This is another one that I know I’m going to struggle with. I use just both to emphasize the importance of a thing while simultaneously minimizing the importance of my request … as in “I’m just following up on the status…” or “Just in a quick reminder that this is due…” or “I’m just HR”
No more of that. We all fill important roles and do important things in our jobs. We should never minimize ourselves or our requests with words like “just”. Focus on using language that is direct and succinct instead.
We have gotten waaaaaaay too comfortable using the word millennial to describe young and/or progressive-minded people in the workplace. If you’re in your 20s or you advocate for things like unlimited PTO or gaming equipment in the breakroom, you’re automatically classified as a millennial.
Most classify “millennials” as being born from around 1981 – 1995 … which means millennials are creeping up on 40! They are not all young and they are not the only progressive-minded people in your workforce. They may not be progressive-minded at all. Stop assuming this — and stop asking them to explain all things social media!
We have 6 generations in our workforce right now. People in their early 20s are Gen Z, not Millennials. If you’re going to use the labels, use them correctly.
However, I would much rather ditch the labels altogether and focus on learning about the needs of the individual. There are Traditionalists and Baby Boomers who know and love computers and technology — or they’re curious and yearning to learn more. There are super conservative Gen X’ers, Xennials, Millenials and Gen Z’ers who do not believe marginalization and microaggression happen daily in workplaces or need to be actively eradicated. The year that you’re born isn’t the only thing that shapes those kinds of views. Let’s not lose sight of that.
6) “It’s not fair that …”
Most automatically respond to this phrase with “life isn’t fair” … I don’t like that phrase either.
Usually, this phrase rears its head when we feel we’ve been left out of something when we should be included or denied an opportunity that we’ve earned. It also comes up when something has been taken away that we have come to rely on.
Because “life isn’t fair” has become the conditioned response to this phrase, we have to eliminate it to have our voice heard on the issue. I feel like people tune out to everything said after the “that” when they hear this phrase — or they become defensive and committed to their position on general principle.
If we want to be heard and have consideration given to our counter-argument, we have to elevate our phrasing. Treat “it’s not fair” the same as all the other prefacing statements. It’s unnecessary and it doesn’t get you closer to your intended message so leave it out.
Instead, clearly explain what you want and why — but don’t waste time or words talking about the thing that isn’t fair, which you don’t want. The words we use create our outcomes and we should consistently use the words that will get us as close as possible to the outcomes we desire.
7) “i’m Sorry”
The word sorry means to be in a poor, pitiful state or condition. When we say this phrase, it’s like saying we are poor, pitiful people.
We are not sorry. We are powerful and amazing.
We should apologize for our errors. We should express condolences and sorrow and distress and unhappiness and all the other emotions we feel. But we should not keep connecting “I am” to a word like “sorry”. We should save “I am” for statements of fact and affirmations about ourselves.
I am talented. I am capable. I am going to succeed. I am going to be out of the office for a fabulous, needed and deserved vacation very soon.
But sorry? Neaupe. Never. It’s gotta go.