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I was at an industry facilitator training session recently and was shocked at the use of what I call “credibility tanker words” that came out of the mouths of experienced, intelligent, and engaging professionals. I wanted to stand up and shout, “STOP USING THESE WORDS! Your message would be much more powerful without them!”

People use these three credibility killer words too often. They are typically a result of a lingering habit and can lower your professional presence overall. So, what are these toxic words?

Number #1 – BUT

There’s always a BUT. And we anticipate it like waiting for the other shoe to drop. So, right off the bat, we are waiting for the bad news. Why? The word ‘but’ negates everything you said before it and often has negative connotations.

“Hey, you did a wonderful job on the project BUT….” You have now wiped out all the praise that came before and left the listener closed off from further dialogue. You have lost the engagement of your listener as no one wants to be criticized or given poor feedback. Instead of BUT, try to employ a PAUSE and an AND such as in “Hey, you did a wonderful job on the project, (pause) and I would like to talk to you more about it.” This is much more constructive and productive. Try to be BUT-free!

Number #2 – JUST

Ladies, women use the word JUST more than men. I JUST want to get more information. I JUST want to say. I JUST want to tell you. Those are typical examples of how women can use the word JUST, which weakens their power and inadvertently backpedal on the intended message. Think of how much more powerful and meaningful a statement may have if you take out the word JUST. “I just thought we could move ahead with the project,” as opposed to, “I thought we could move ahead with the project.” Think about how you are using the word JUST – is it critical to your message? “I JUST heard the news,” Or are you using it as a filler word? 

Number #3 – MAYBE

Avoid MAYBE when you don’t mean MAYBE. “Maybe we can take a look at this file” versus “Let’s take a look at this file.” Maybe can be an uncomfortable word that can make people sound nervous, much like BUT. Use ‘maybe’ only when it represents your intention, like when the answer is genuinely MAYBE. “Kerri, are you going to have dessert?” “MAYBE”!

Of course, you don’t need to take out all these professional presence killer words from your everyday life as there are certainly times when you can use BUT, JUST, and MAYBE effectively. Always be mindful when communicating in business, as effective, efficient, and credible language skills are the hallmarks of your power and image.
Kerri Garbis is the Founder and CEO of Ovation and has trained hundreds of business professionals internationally throughout her career as a professional actress, entrepreneur, and speaking coach. She is a Professional Speech Writer certified by the Professional Speechwriters Association, a Business Etiquette Expert certified by The Emily Post Institute, an Emotional Intelligence Expert certified by The Hay Group, and the exclusive speaker training partner for Meeting Planners International. Her dedication to dynamic, user-tailored content has helped ensure that every Ovation consultant delivers the highest level of client-focused professional training. Visit www.getovation.com today to learn more.


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