Did I Just Say That?? 4 Words that Could Destroy Your Professional Credibility

Your professionalism can make or break the deal as you communicate and collaborate as a solopreneur.  When talking – either when meeting one on one or when presenting to a group – you can instantly downgrade your authority and credibility a notch or two by repeatedly making annoying speaking faux pas. Whether you use any of the below because of nervousness, uncertainty of what you want to say, or bad habit, consider making a conscious effort to limit them in your conversations.

Spoken Words that Could Make You Sound Less Professional

LikeI’m like, “Why do so many people say like?” I’m calling myself out on this one! I know many other people who use it conversationally, too. For me, it’s a bad habit I’m working to break. Occasionally using it won’t do much damage, but frequent use will make you sound like a preteen star on a Nickelodeon sitcom.

Um – We tend to use this meaningless filler when we’re gathering our thoughts and searching for what we want to say next. Used sparingly, it won’t be too distracting. But when inserted before or after every sentence it detracts from your message. You’ll sound more together by inserting a silent pause instead of an “um” as you find the right words to use next.

You knowThis is another overused phrase, you know?  If the people you’re talking with already know, why are you telling them? This, too, is usually used out of habit. Again, used minimally it won’t hurt, but overused it will make you sound less professional than you are.

Cuss words – While they sometimes have a place and purpose, often they don’t. Know your audience before you use expletives. Some people are tolerant of them, but others aren’t. Not only will you risk sounding unprofessional by using unnecessary cuss words, but you’ll also risk offending people. Before you curse, ask yourself if it really is the best way to drive home your point. Beware of using swear words gratuitously and freely to the point where they become a hard-to-break habit.

What other words or speaking habits do you think make professionals look/sound less authoritative and respect-worthy?

By Dawn Mentzer

6 comments on “Did I Just Say That?? 4 Words that Could Destroy Your Professional Credibility
  1. Tim Allen says:

    Just sloppiness- “Yeah” instead of “yes”, “nah” instead of “no”, “ain’t” and so on. I find myself being far to casual, and even the lack of enunciation conveys a general sense of laziness. That could be taken as a sign of one’s work ethic. Stretched too far however, just sounds odd.

    I think I err both ways at different times, because I tend to mirror the “voice” of my client. Mirroring is a good practice overall, but not if it detracts from the professionalism that I want to convey.

    It is also worth noting that while they might not be cuss words exactly, “sucks”, “piss” and “ass” are terms not to use use with a customer because you never know what might be deemed offensive. At some point, determine one’s own”Don’t Say…” list and be willing to stand by it and defend the right to speak freely. Just know that sometimes it might create an obstacle to sales.

    • dawnmentzer says:

      Oh yes!!! “Yeah” – I catch myself using that, and should have thought to include it on the list! Good one, Tim…as are all your examples. I like your point about setting and upholding our own set of standards, while realizing they have the potential to work for us or against us depending on our audience.

  2. Gerald Vinci says:

    I regret moving to the south every day and am counting the days when I no longer have to hear fixin to, or fittin to do something… yall, peace ways, dagnabbit (seriously people say this) tote (when referring to bringing anything from one place to another) and mash (instead of press)

    Think I can use these all in one sentence?

    “Yall fittin to head a peace ways down yonder cause dagnabbit I’m a hungry and fixin to get me something to eat right after mash this button and call up skeeter to help me tote this here ice chest across town.” I’m pretty sure I hear my neighbor say that one time.

  3. wendykomancheck says:

    I’m surprised anytime someone cusses in a professional setting. And I think it shows on my face because the speaker tends to pull back to gentler word choices. And I’ve spoke with folks who used pretty strong language beyond the light cuss words–and then, I’m speechless. I always chalk it up to me being old-fashioned and conservative–and that’s how professionals now talk to each other. Glad to hear that it’s not just me.

    • dawnmentzer says:

      Hi Wendy, it definitely isn’t just you! I think in an attempt to be “edgy” people let the foul language fly…there’s usually more effective ways to get attention though!

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