8 commonly used words that instantly diminish your credibility

We all have a need to be respected.

And when you’re trying to achieve something in your professional life, it’s even more important that people see you as a competent and knowledgeable person.

One of the biggest ways we judge each other is in the language that we use. And unfortunately, you may be setting yourself up for failure the moment you open your mouth.

You see, there are lots of words and phrases that can instantly harm your credibility with others. It’s not always fair, because the way a person talks doesn’t necessarily reflect on their intelligence, competence, or honesty.

But if you want to give yourself the best chance of success and be taken seriously by others, it’s a good idea to scrub certain words from your vocabulary.

Let’s take a look at the common words that instantly diminish your credibility.

1) Like

This is probably the biggest offender on this list. But like most words, it’s all in how you use it.

Don’t try to avoid saying that you like something, as in enjoy it.

What I mean instead is using ‘like’ as a filler.

Here’s what I mean:

“I was, like, why are we doing that?”

“I’m, like, totally stoked about this new project.”

The problem with like in these contexts is that it can make you sound juvenile and immature. S, the word ‘like’ isn’t doing anything substantial in the sentences. Instead, it’s just being used as a noise to fill space while you form your next thought.

Other people can tell when you’re doing this. And it damages your credibility by making it seem as though you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Like isn’t the only offender. 

Common speech is full of filler words that aren’t even words, like um and uh. But whichever ones you use, they make you sound less sure of yourself and less in control of what you are trying to say.

Using filler words can easily become a verbal tic that is hard to shake. But it’s worth making the effort to sound more confident and more mature, giving you more credibility.

2) Kind of

“This product is kind of hard to use.”

“This meeting is kind of pointless.”

This is a common phrase that people often use to lessen the impact of what might otherwise be a negative comment.

However, take a look at the sentences above. Take out the phrase ‘kind of’.

You’ll notice it doesn’t make any difference at all to what the sentence is saying.

Simply put, phrases like ‘kind of’ don’t add anything to your communication. In fact, they can be damaging to your credibility by making you sound unsure of yourself.

If you want to say something, say it clearly and directly and leave empty phrases behind.

3) Awesome

This is one I notice most with my North American friends.

The thing is, some things in life are truly awesome. Seeing the Northern Lights, witnessing a storm at sea, or watching a meteor shower, for instance.

Your pumpkin spice latte is not one of those things.

Awesome is a good example of a perfectly valid word that has become cheapened through overuse. 

Now, people use it to mean anything from ‘absolutely incredible’ to ‘pretty good’. And that has made the word cliché that a lot of people are tired of hearing.

4) Sorry

This one is a little bit trickier.

When you’ve done something wrong, a proper apology is absolutely necessary. And nothing can mend relationships between people like a sincere and timely apology.

At the same time, apologizing too much can quickly make you seem unsure of yourself. And it can even backfire. If you are always apologizing for something, it can start to seem to others like your apologies are insincere.

I’m not saying you should stop saying sorry completely. But I am saying be careful when you use it.

Only apologize when you personally have done something wrong. Don’t apologize for what other people do, and don’t apologize just because you feel nervous or awkward.

5) Just 

This is another word that is often used as a qualifier, and it can really harm your credibility when you add it to a sentence.

“I was just trying to make a point.”

“I was just saying we need new office chairs.”

Using ‘just’ in this context has the effect of undermining what you are saying. It makes your argument seem weaker, as though you are trying to minimize your original statement.

It’s a way of justifying (see what I did there?) your statement. But if you are saying something accurate and helpful, you don’t need to justify it at all.

6) Quite

“How is the new trainee?”

“Oh, she’s quite good.”

Quite is another qualifier that can actually weaken what you’re saying. 

In the sentence above, is the trainee actually good? Or is the person saying “quite” to qualify this statement and imply that the trainee is not actually very good?

‘Quite’ has a way of muddying the waters and taking the impact out of what you are saying. That’s a quick way to damage your credibility with others.

7) But

The problem with ‘but’ is that it tends to be an introduction to something negative.

“But we’re not ready to launch yet!”

“But the market research shows people hate our logo.”

Sometimes, you have to be critical. On the other hand, using ‘but’ can make you seem argumentative and problem-oriented instead of solution-oriented.

You can still say the phrases above when they need to be said. Saying them without using ‘but’, however, will make them sound less critical and more like a plain statement of fact.

8) Stuff

We all use this one from time to time. But ‘stuff’ suffers by being nonspecific, and that can hurt your credibility.

Instead of saying something like, “we have a lot of stuff to do,” be specific about the task ahead. Clearly stating what is needed makes you seem much more credible.

Picture of Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley is a France-based writer with a passion for psychology, philosophy, science, and anything that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions. Reach out at ryan@ryanfrawley.com

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