7 phrases that make you appear more competent than you really are

You want to be competent — whether it’s for work, a personal project, or in your social circle.

You might not be where you want to be yet. But as they say, “fake it till you make it.”

Can you apply this to competency as well?

As it turns out, you can. While honesty is the best policy, and it’s important to not misrepresent your skills, there are phrases you can use to present yourself in a more competent light.

Use them as you continue to work on yourself, and you’ll be able to build both your capabilities and your image at the same time. 

1) “Here’s when I’ll update you on that.”

You know that dreaded phrase? “I’ll keep you posted.” Or, “Keep me posted.” Or even worse, “We’ll be in touch.”

There might be really good intentions behind all of these. But the problem? People rarely actually follow through.

And there’s a good reason for that. They’re way, way too vague. Without any kind of specificity, people have no reason to even keep in mind that they have to get back to someone about it.

And the other person is left waiting and wondering if it’s okay or annoying to ask again. 

So here’s an easy switch you can make to appear more competent. Start telling people exactly when they can expect an update from you — whether it’s about a work project or making plans with a friend.

But don’t forget the most important part. After, you must actually follow through and get back to the person when you promised they would. 

Otherwise, you’re not making yourself look more competent, but unreliable. 

2) “Here’s what experience has taught me…”

Perhaps the most common phase people use in conversation is “I think”.

Of course, opinions are a dime a dozen, and this phrase can precede practically anything else you think to say.

But change it to something like “Here’s what I learned” and it’s a whole different story.

You’re still sharing an opinion, but suddenly it has much more weight, because there is actual tangible experience that backs it up.

The person immediately understands that you’re not just pulling something out of thin air, but there’s a good reason why you believe what you believe.

And, you’re also highlighting relevant experience you have.

3) “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

When you accomplish something great, it’s easy to bask in the limelight. But a truly competent person recognizes the contributions of others. 

Using the phrase “I couldn’t have done it without you” not only makes you appear more competent but also more humble and appreciative of team efforts.

Why does it work? It shows that you can work in a team and value other people’s input. 

In other words, it shows you’re aware that success isn’t a one-person show and reflects positively on your leadership skills.

I used this phrase a lot when I was starting at my previous job, primarily because I genuinely felt I wasn’t able to contribute a lot myself. So I focused on appreciating the hard work everyone else was doing.

But what I didn’t realize at the time was that it made a huge difference to our team dynamics and reinforced my competence and leadership abilities.

And partially thanks to that, my team trusted me to eventually become team leader. 

4) “I’m sorry, that was my fault.”

Admitting to a mistake can seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to appear competent. But, using the phrase “I’m sorry, that was my fault,” can greatly enhance your image.

Why? It shows you can take responsibility for your actions, which is a trait highly valued in any professional or personal setting. It communicates integrity, humility, and the willingness to learn and grow from mistakes.

And more than that, admitting to making mistakes increases trust. Dr. Paul Zak, author of Trust Factor, explains that people who are imperfect are more attractive.

During my time as a project manager, there was an instance where I misunderstood the client’s specifications. This led to a significant delay in the project timeline. 

Realizing my mistake, I promptly informed the team, apologized, and revised the strategy to fix the error. 

I’m not going to lie, it felt super uncomfortable. But in doing this, I not only took responsibility but also showed a proactive approach to problem-solving. So it actually boosted my team’s confidence in me. 

This confirmed something that we all logically know, but are often afraid to face: every human makes mistakes. The most competent ones are the ones who are not afraid to admit it. 

5) “Could you help me out?”

personality traits that make you an effective team player 7 phrases that make you appear more competent than you really are

Some people wrongly believe that competent people do it all alone. But truthfully, asking for help when needed doesn’t make you weak; it makes you smart.

Using the phrase “Could you help me out?” shows that you are resourceful and open-minded. 

You recognize that others may have more experience or expertise in a certain area, and you’re not afraid to leverage their skills for collective success.

I remember when I was working on a critical marketing project. I wasn’t familiar with the latest SEO tactics, so instead of struggling alone, I reached out to a colleague. 

By asking for her help, not only did I complete the task more efficiently, but I also learned valuable techniques that improved my skill set. 

And, I made my colleague feel valued for her abilities and deepened my bond with her. 

This phrase applies not only to asking for a hand, but also advice. So whatever it is you’re doing, remember that two heads are more competent than one. 

6) “Interesting point. Here’s another perspective.”

You’ve probably heard tons of people say “That’s interesting, but…” or some variation of it.

And those people might think it shows respect, but the thing is the word “but” basically invalidates everything you say before it.

If my idea really was interesting, why is there a “but”?

So if you want to appear more confident, eliminate this word and replace it with and. 

And when you think about it, this makes more sense. An idea can still be interesting or a “good point” even if you have a different one. These two things can coexist perfectly well together.

First, you acknowledge what the person said already and give it proper consideration. And then, you contribute with your own input. 

You can even use this concept to disagree with someone. Instead of “I don’t agree,” you can say: “You make a valid point. I’d like to bring up a few other points that we should consider along with it.”

7) “Here’s a possible solution…”

Framing is everything. When a problem arises, most people’s knee-jerk reaction is to state, “We have a problem.”

And obviously, it’s important to identify issues, but constantly focusing on them can be detrimental. It can make you seem pessimistic or unprepared, and that doesn’t scream competent at all.

Here’s a better approach: “Here’s a possible solution”. It’s the same situation, but with a different narrative.

By presenting a potential answer to the issue at hand, you position yourself as a proactive problem-solver, which exudes competency.

I actually used this phrase in my previous role, when our team was facing a significant challenge. Instead of harping on the problem, I brought forth a viable solution during a team meeting.

So I not only helped address the issue, but I also portrayed myself as resourceful and forward-thinking.

Remember, it’s not the absence of problems that shows your competency, but your ability to handle them effectively.

Become your most confident and competent self

Now you know 7 phrases that will help make you look more competent than you really are.

It’s super admirable that you’re working on this quality, which is key to success in today’s competitive world.

And I totally understand the desire to get a head start and look the part.

But as you work on appearing competent, remember this. The most important thing is to genuinely embody these sentiments in your actions and attitudes. 

The good thing is, using some of these phrases actually makes you become more competent at the same time — as it makes you become more responsible, considerate, or humble.

So as long as you have your intentions in the right place, you’ll be sure to see a big, positive difference in not just the way you look, but also the way you feel and are. 

And when you’re ready for the next step, there are plenty more resources here on Ideapod where this came from — wherever you are in your personal growth journey, we’re here to guide you along. 

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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