How you communicate with others at work plays a big role in how you’re perceived, your capacity to move projects, how quickly you advance in your career, and, perhaps most importantly, your ability to generate trust.
That’s according to Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.”
“We sometimes fall into a trap of using trite phrases that engender frustration and mistrust,” she explains. “But trust is the cornerstone of any sustainable business relationship, so it’s worthwhile to find ways to be authentic and professional with your team and managers.
“Of course a lot depends on the audience, frequency, context, and environment. Still, you should spend some time examining the level of honesty, originality, and emotional intelligence you convey.”
No one is immune from this jargon, Taylor says. “However, if you avoid these words and phrases, you’ll foster greater credibility, cooperation, and motivation, while advancing your career prospects.”
Here are 29 words and phrases that make you seem untrustworthy, with commentary from Taylor:
- Carmella Fernando/Flickr
There is a vast contingent of workers that seem to live in a virtual corporate underground of “in the know.” “How do you know? They’ll tell you,” says Taylor.
1. “This is a secret, but … “
So it’s okay if everyone in the office knows the secret, just as long as it’s called a “secret?” correct?
2. “I’m not supposed to tell you this … “
Pretty darn discreet and comforting.
3. “I swore I wouldn’t repeat this.”
Swear a lot?
4. “If you repeat this, I’m going to deny I ever said it.”
This one says, “I’ll lie as necessary.”
5. “I really don’t want have to do this, but … “
Then please don’t and we’ll both be much happier!
“Some of these phrases are just overused and annoying, but for some, they can leave a trace of doubt, depending on the user,” says Taylor.
6. “I’m not gonna lie.”
So if you don’t preface a comment with this, I should assume that’s the “lie dialog?”
7. “Do you want me to be honest?”
No, I hate that; stop it now!
8. “Do you want to know the truth?”
9. “To tell you the truth … “
So up until this point, everything you said was fabricated … got it.
10. “Trust me … ” or “Honestly … “
I did that once, then joined a large army of prior suckers.
“When they leave you guessing, you’ve entered the flim flam zone,” she says.
11. “I believe so.”
Acceptable: “Wow, I believe it’s going to rain.” Unacceptable: “I believe I sent the $10 million dollar transfer.”
12. “For now, yes … “
Please define “now,” i.e., the layoffs won’t happen this quarter … or this morning?
13. “I can’t promise this, but … “
That’s funny, because I also can’t promise I believe what you’re about to tell me.
14. “I’ll try… “
This is part of a flimsy package of lingo that comes with: ” should be able to,” “It should be okay,” etc.
15. “This is unofficial.”
Also not okay: “I’m just telling you what I heard,” and “It’s just my opinion, but … .” These are often indigenous to the break room and water cooler.
It hard to trust a passive person because you never really know what they actually want or how they really feel.
16. “Good luck!”
Did they mean,”Good luck with that!” when they walked off tossing their head?
17. “You know best.”
This is really a “CYA waiver.” It really means, “mess up and you’re on your own.”
18. “I’m not saying that … “
But you just said it.
19. “I’m sure you’ll do something for me someday.”
Sure. I’ll be right back with a scorecard.
- Flickr/Andrew Yee
When people offer genuine apologies, that engenders trust, versus the deflective, “anti-apology,” Taylor explains.
20. “If I offended you, I’m sorry.”
Are you taking a wild guess here, or apologizing?
21. “My bad.”
This is okay for very minor goof ups, but not for major infractions. Examples: “I meant to say, both Sam and Emily; my bad.” (Doesn’t really sound bad.) “I dinged your car.” (Baaad).
22. “S–t happens.”
Like UFOs and paranormal activity happens … not anyone’s fault.
23. “Sorry, but … “
Meaning, “not sorry.”
24.” I’ll get back to you.”
Without giving specifics on when, especially to a new acquaintance, that’s tantamount to saying: “I might get back to you … .”
25. “Don’t over-think it.”
This can be well meaning, but it can make you want to blurt out, “Actually, please – rethink it; thanks!”
26. “I’m not worried.”
Well, now I am!
27. “Everyone thinks that you are … “
You mean you, right?
28. “Just be happy that … “
Thanks, I’m perfectly content now.
29. “You’re lucky things turned out the way they did this time.”
Is this a threat?
It’s not always what you say; it’s how you say it
“It’s not just the phrases you use that can trigger mistrust, but your delivery, too,” adds Taylor. “When someone says, ‘Thank you,’ are they smiling and making eye contact, or looking away and mumbling? Does the person tend to whisper some of their conversations, as if you’re cloaked in secrecy? Or are they straightforward and transparent? And, there’s much merit to the phrase, actions speak louder than words’ when it comes to trust.”
Here’s a quick checklist of tips to foster greater trust:
• Communicate honestly, frequently, and clearly• Demonstrate empathy• Be accountable and reliable• Illustrate a commonality of goals• Be consistent, concise and original• Choose meaningful words• Support your words with action• Consider your delivery – body language and intonation
While you can’t be too measured in what you say (that will create distrust, too!) – your “trust quotient” is worth exploring, she says. “It can be a critical factor in your career success.”