Did you know that the words you choose can have a big impact on how smart and credible you sound?
When it comes to effective communication, certain phrases unintentionally undermine our messages. But the sad thing is that no one has time to analyze every word we say — the human attention span is limited, and we need to make every word count.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of 10 phrases you should stay away from in your conversations to sound smarter.
1) “You know”
How many times have you filled your speech with the all-too-familiar phrase, “you know”?
Let’s admit it: we all have used this phrase, even when we know deep down that it doesn’t add any value to our conversations.
But it’s common. Everyone does it. So we also started using “you know” as a natural part of our everyday conversations.
It’s a common linguistic habit that often sneaks its way into our conversations. In fact, “you know” has become a default filler, a comfortable cushion to fall back on when searching for the right words.
But guess what?
Relying too heavily on this phrase diminishes the impact of our message and makes us sound less confident or even unsure of ourselves.
So, if you’re trying to sound smarter than ever, then I’d suggest you forget about this phrase. Instead, be clear and express your thoughts directly without any filler words.
2) “I guess”
Sadly, “you know” isn’t the only phrase that can undermine our communication efforts.
Another common but redundant phrase we can’t stop using in our everyday conversations is “I guess.”
I know, at a first glance, this may seem harmless. But its impact on our credibility and confidence should not be overlooked.
How does it impact your overall communication, you ask?
When we use “I guess,” we introduce an element of uncertainty into our statements. Therefore, it suggests that we lack conviction in our own thoughts or opinions.
But we all want to sound compelling and eliminate uncertainty from our communication, right?
If you agree, then you should know that using “I guess” makes you sound less compelling, and, therefore, less confident. On the other hand, studies show that confident people are always perceived as smarter, even when they’re actually not so intelligent.
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Well, using “I guess” weakens the impact of our message and can leave others questioning the validity or strength of our ideas.
So remember, if you want to sound smarter, there’s no need to leave room for doubt in the minds of our listeners.
3) “I’m not sure, but”
Again, speaking of leaving room for doubt and uncertainty in our communication, there’s another phrase we often fall prey to: “I’m not sure, but…”
“Why not leave a way back if I’m not 100% sure about something else?” – here’s how we usually rationalize using phrases like this.
But the reality is that excessive use of this phrase doesn’t let us sound confident, knowledgeable, and compelling. On the other hand, according to social psychologists, all of these qualities are crucial when it comes to persuasive communication.
Of course, this simple, seemingly harmless expression may serve as a disclaimer, an attempt to appear humble or open to different perspectives. However, it actually weakens our credibility and undermines the confidence we seek to convey.
But how can you avoid spreading incorrect information and still maintain credibility without using “I’m not sure, but”?
Here’s my suggestion:
Don’t hesitate to say what you’re thinking, even if you’re not 100% certain. But in the end, you can always add that you need to verify or fact-check the information.
That way, you can be accurate without compromising on sounding intelligent and compelling.
4) “I don’t know”
Still, there’s one simple phrase that does compromise our ability to sound knowledgeable and confident, and that’s “I don’t know.”
No, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t admit not knowing things when you actually lack the information. Nobody knows everything and it’s absolutely fine not to know all the facts or information regardless of who you’re talking to.
But adding “I don’t know” to most of the sentences you use in your conversation will undoubtedly make you look like you lack knowledge or expertise.
That’s why I believe it’s important to strike a balance between admitting uncertainty and projecting confidence.
What I’m saying is that the phrase “I don’t know” can be reframed in a way that maintains your credibility while acknowledging the gaps in your knowledge.
So, before saying “I don’t know” and ending the conversation like this, you can always consider alternative approaches to keep the dialogue going.
For example, you can say something like “I’m not familiar with that specific detail, but I can provide more information on…” or “I haven’t come across that yet, but I think…”
That way, you can show that you are actively engaged in seeking knowledge about this topic.
Want to know what the one word is that has absolutely no value in your communication arsenal?
It’s a small term that often slips unnoticed into our conversations: “stuff.”
Yes, you heard it right.
It’s not even a phrase, it’s just a simple word but it does show your audience that you are kind of lazy to share your thoughts or address their concerns.
When we rely on “stuff” to express our opinion or discuss a topic, it sends a subtle message to the receiver that we lack the willingness to articulate our ideas with clarity and precision.
As a result, we sound vague, uninterested, and even disengaged from the conversation.
So, here’s the thing:
If you think that the details of “stuff” or “things” you’re referring to aren’t important for your conversation, then there’s no need to use this expression altogether.
6) “No offense”
How many times have you used “no offense’ just before either offending someone or expressing a potentially controversial statement?
We’ve all been there, trying to soften the blow of our words by inserting “no offense”.
Once again, “no offense” is a phrase we use in order to avoid taking full responsibility for our words. But did you know that one of the most important things that make you sound smarter is taking responsibility for every word you say?
However, the truth is that it rarely achieves the desired effect.
Whether you like it or not, saying “no offense” doesn’t magically erase the impact of what we’re about to say.
Instead, it often heightens the negative impact by drawing attention to the potential offense.
So, try to realize that the true purpose of this phrase is to either criticize someone or introduce a controversial idea. And if you plan to do so, go ahead and do it without using filler phrases like “no offense,” which won’t diminish the impact anyway.
7) “Let me explain”
This one isn’t as harmful as other phrases I’ve discussed above, but still, saying “let me explain” in your conversations won’t help you sound smarter.
Why should you eliminate it from your vocab?
Because “let me explain” indicates that your listener isn’t knowledgeable enough, they need an explanation. Of course, it can unintentionally come across as disrespectful and diminish the mutual respect in the conversation.
In simple terms, saying “let me explain” implies that you are the sole authority or expert in the conversation.
The best solution here is to simply dive into your explanation or provide context naturally. This approach will help you respect the listener’s understanding and avoid unnecessary interruptions.
8) “Whatever you say”
“Whatever you say” is a polite way to avoid offending a speaker when you don’t agree with them. At least, that’s the reason we constantly use this phrase in our everyday conversations.
But why try looking for convenient and neutral responses when you actually don’t care what the speaker is saying?
Personally, I believe that genuine engagement and open-mindedness are far more valuable in communication.
So, if you want to express that you disagree with the speaker, do it directly. Saying “whatever you say” shows that you think the speaker is wrong anyway. So why don’t you share your perspective directly instead?
9) “Just saying”
One more phrase that immediately undermines the power of your communication is “Just saying.”
Because it weakens our conviction and diminishes the impact of our words, even if we said something valuable.
In simple words, “I’m just saying” is a phrase shy or insecure people use in order to prevent criticism.
But you, as a smart person, aren’t afraid of confrontation, right? At least, you shouldn’t be!
10) “To be honest”
Finally, starting a sentence with “to be honest” clearly implies that you are not normally honest in your conversations.
It suggests that honesty is an exception rather than the norm for you.
I know you’re saying it because you want to emphasize your truthfulness in that particular moment, but actually, “to be honest” unintentionally raises doubts about your overall credibility.
Therefore, it won’t help you clarify your good intentions in any way. That’s why you need to master the art of reflecting honesty without using qualifiers.
Breaking free from language barriers
Now you know that eliminating all the phrases that I’ve discussed above will help you break free from language barriers.
It’s not easy to be mindful of all the phrases we use, but trust me — the more you try to avoid these common pitfalls, the smarter you sound!
So, challenge yourself right now, and you’ll see how amazing it feels when your language represents your true intentions, your true self.