6 Phrases to Avoid if You Want to be Taken Seriously at Work

By: Barbara Pachter

After discussing self-discounting language in a communications class last week, a participant suggested that I create a “DO NOT SAY” list. I thought it was a great idea. Having a list of phrases to avoid can help people steer clear of language that could have a negative impact on their careers, particularly if used frequently.

Listed below are my top six suggestions for the “DO NOT SAY” list. Using these comments in business (and life) can diminish your stature in the eyes of others, minimize what you are saying, or tarnish your professional image.

1. Can I ask a question?

You don’t have to ask permission; just ask the question.

2. I’m sorry to bother you.

Why are you a bother? You can say, “Excuse me. Do you have a moment?”

3. I was hoping that you could spare a few moments.

Same as above. Simply say, “Excuse me. Do you have a moment?”

4. Thank you for listening to me.

At the end of a presentation, you should say, “Thank you.” This lets the audience know that the presentation is over. You don’t have to thank people for listening to you. Aren’t your comments and opinions worthwhile?

5. I will be honest with you.

Aren’t you always honest? You don’t need to use this phrase.

6. I was just wondering if perhaps.

This phrase is a passive way of asking a question or backing into a statement. You can eliminate “I was just wondering if perhaps” and simply ask a question or make a statement. Instead of “I was just wondering if perhaps there will be enough computers for the project?,” you can say, “Will there be enough computers for the project?”

Let’s build on this list. I was just wondering if perhaps you would send me your suggestions for the list? No, of course I wouldn’t say that! Please send me your favorite phrases to add to the list. Thank you.

Additional tips on communication can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.


About Amr Badran

An Egyptian Business Consultant and Corporate Trainer since 1997. I've trained on Management, Leadership and Soft Skills to thousands of people from many nationalities, backgrounds and professions in more than 10 countries across the Middle and Far East. I've also provided my consultancy service for issues of Strategic Planning, Marketing, Sales and Capacity Building. Holder of an MBA and a Candidate for Doctorate in Business. Find more about my Management and Personal Skills Courses at AmrBadran.com and feel free contacting me at Amr@AmrBadran.com
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