11 common words smart people avoid (so you should, too)

Have you ever felt self-conscious while talking to someone? That is, did you feel like what you just said was ridiculous?

Worse still, the person sitting across from you pointed it out…

That must’ve been embarrassing.

I completely understand.

Conversations can be difficult to navigate. And it takes practice to do them well every time!

If you want to sound smarter next time, here are 11 common words and phrases to avoid.

Let’s jump in!

1) “Like I said…”

The first thing smart people avoid saying at all costs is “like I said”.

Often, the person we’re talking to isn’t paying attention for whatever reason. And we want to pull them back into the conversation, especially if they’re going off tangent.

However, saying this only makes you sound impatient!

Here’s why: you might make the other person feel self-conscious, because you wanted to emphasize that you did bring up a particular point before!

If you want to sound smart, refrain from sounding so condescending.

For example, you could say:

“Oh, that! We were talking about it earlier, weren’t we?”

2) “I don’t have the time!”

Speaking of sounding impatient brings me to this next point…

The easiest way to turn people off in conversation is to imply that they’re wasting your time. This could be in response to someone asking you for a favour, perhaps at your job.

So, what would a smart person say?

Consider this.

“I’m currently occupied at the moment. Can we revisit this next time?”

Granted, we may not always settle on saying we don’t have the time unless we’re in a hurry!

But it’s useful to think about where the other person’s coming from. If someone’s come to you for help, it must be for a reason!

3) “I’m never wrong.”

Here’s another thing smart people refrain from saying, and for good reason.

These three words are self-explanatory. But there’s something else that becomes obvious when you say them: “I’m an a**.”

The thing about getting into a heated conversation with someone is that we feel defensive when it comes to our views on a particular subject.

Maybe the other person has a point, and is about to prove you wrong.

So what do you do?

You declare, “I’m never wrong!”

But that just makes you look childish. And, let’s face it, everyone has an opinion, and no one’s obligated to agree with you!

In these situations, it may be best to take a deep breath to refrain from responding immediately. That way, we can cool off and come up with something more appropriate!

4) “You don’t get it!”

Smart people are always looking to communicate clearly, and expect the same in return.

That’s why telling someone they “don’t get it” isn’t an appropriate thing to do. It’s like saying you’re “never wrong” – what happens is that you’re shutting the other person down!

So what can you do instead? 

First, acknowledge where the other person’s coming from.

If you want to sound smart, consider saying “I beg to differ” –  then explain your perspective and how it differs from theirs. 

That’s what smart people do: they’re always open to the opinions of others!

5) “I’ll try my best.”

supportive friend 1 11 common words smart people avoid (so you should, too)

Since I mentioned being open to the opinions of others, there’s another point to make:

“Trying your best.”

Whenever you say you’ll “try your best”, you’re managing someone else’s expectations of you. It’s a defense mechanism to avoid embarrassing yourself, should you fail!

This is something many people do when talking to someone they’re trying to impress! But what it still does is destroy that person’s confidence in you. 

And you don’t want that.

What you DO want is to make an impression, and in these cases, you’d most likely be speaking to a manager at work. 

Perhaps you’ve just been assigned a difficult task and want to downplay your capabilities…just in case you fail.

But don’t do that! 

Do the job and see what happens, without trying to cover your a**. 

Most of the time, you’ll figure it out. And if you don’t, it’s no big deal – unless it’s something like heart surgery, of course…

6) “This might sound stupid, but…”

As I mentioned, trying to manage the expectations of others – especially the people you’re working with – isn’t the best idea.

When you preface a question by saying “this might sound stupid,” you’re doing the same thing. You’re showing that you aren’t very confident in what you’re about to say…

Put it this way.

What would you do if a friend came up to you and said, “this might sound stupid, but I’m afraid of the dark!”

Would you wonder why they were so self-conscious?

I think you would.

That’s why smart people avoid saying this: they know that the most important thing is to be comfortable with who you are!

7) “Are you serious?”

Another thing a smart person will never do is ask someone if they’re serious! Unless, of course, they are speaking to someone who is recounting a nutty story.

In which case, go ahead. 

Now when is it a problem? It’s when you say it with a condescending tone that implies judgment!

Let’s consider this scenario: A friend of yours is sharing one of her strange hobbies and you’re not feeling it. 

You proceed to give her a dirty look and say “Are you serious?”

This is a situation a smart person will avoid at all costs. What they would do, instead, is show acceptance and maybe even some interest!

8) “Whatever.”

Let’s be real. The word “whatever” takes us back to middle school, and for all the wrong reasons!

Smart people avoid saying this, because, first of all, you sound juvenile. 

It also makes people take you less seriously

When you don’t respond to a conversation directly and use this word to describe how you’re feeling, you’re running away from a source of conflict.

But you’re also sweeping the problem under the rug!

Many people end up saying “whatever” when they’re frustrated, or are on the losing side of the argument.

The best way to fix this?

Accept that no one is right all the time!

9) “I told you so.”

Just like how they refrain from saying “whatever” in times of frustration, smart people always avoid saying “I told you so!”

People tend to say this in situations where someone failed to take their advice, and had to pay for it. 

But remember: you’re not their parent. There, I said it!

If someone’s come to you for advice – and ends up not taking it – try not to take it personally. Here’s how you can do that.

First, step away from the conversation if necessary. You may be dealing with someone who just wants to use you as a sounding board for their problems.

Two, recognize that people are often stuck in their own heads. Even if they did consider what you said, it may not have translated into action in the end…

10) “In my opinion…”

hidden traits reveal someones nature 11 common words smart people avoid (so you should, too)

This is a tough one. After all, what are we doing in conversations if we’re not expressing our opinions?

But that’s exactly why smart people refrain from saying it: it’s just too obvious!

When you begin a sentence with “in my opinion”, you end up sounding too formal – as if you were going for an examination! 

Unless, of course, someone asks for your opinion, it might be okay to say it first. 

But really, do you want to waste that extra bit of effort?

Consider just saying “I think” instead!

11) “You decide.”

One more thing smart people never do: speak passively. And an example is letting others decide for them, no matter the situation!

While it can be normal to leave a decision to someone else – such as in a big group of friends – it makes no sense to do this constantly.

And get this: I used to be THE annoying friend!

That is, I was someone who never chose where to eat or hang…

It’s important to take initiative in these situations; that’s how you sound smart.

Why is that?

When you show others you have a clear sense of what you want – even if it’s something as trivial as what to eat – it shows them that you know your sh*t!


We’ve now discussed some things smart people never say in conversations! I’m sure some of them are familiar to you – the trick now is to avoid them.

Ultimately, though, the best way to sound smart is to realize that conversations are rarely a battlefield. 

In fact, they’re often a means for understanding each other better. Once you see this, sounding smart will come easy!

Picture of Juliana Mei

Juliana Mei

Juliana Mei is a content writer and marketer who's passionate about finding the best way to position your brand to your audience. She finds joy in art, music and literature, and most importantly, through writing, which she hopes to inspire others by.

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