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8 Common Words You Don’t Know Are Making You Sound Unreliable

8 Common Words You Don’t Know Are Making You Sound Unreliable

Communication becomes more casual every day. Ten years ago, we never would have felt comfortable including a smiley face in an email to our boss, but now in 2017, that seems less unprofessional.

While speaking and writing tend to have different guidelines, we still tend to have more fillers when speaking vs. typing a social media post or a quick message to a coworker. When we speak, we tend to allow ourselves more fillers; I’ll never forget the time one of my professors in college asked us to count the number of times we said, “like” in one day. Maybe I was hyper-aware, but the number was astronomical.

While it may seem like a small thing at first, the amount of times we use filler words like “um” or “like” in a conversation can make us appeal unreliable, no matter how educated or dependable we may be.

Your Word Choice Reflects Your Personality

It’s no surprise that word choice and expression says a lot about someone’s personality, but even the regularity in which words or word categories are used can speak volumes about a person.

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Psychologist James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin is one of many experts who assert that the way a person expresses thought reveals character. Any time a person speaks, they make choices – choices regarding appropriate nouns and verbs. Those small aspects are part of a bigger context which can provide clues into an individual’s large-scale behaviors [1]. Some researchers are so fascinated by this that they have created software to monitor a person’s word choice in order to predict the way they will act in the future.

8 Toxic Words to Avoid

Here is a list of words to limit in daily conversation. I promise you all it takes is a once-over and you’ll suddenly realize how often you’re saying every single one of them!

Al Verbs: Might, Should, Maybe and Would

While these are some of the most common verbs in the english language, all they do is make the speaker sound unsure of himself. Modal Verbs include, “Might,” “should,” “maybe,” and “would.” While these verbs are easy to include in casual conversation, think about how insincere it makes a friend sound when you invite them to hang out and they reply with something like, “Yeah, maybe. I might have something going on, but I’ll let you know…” The next time you find yourself wanting to use this kind of verb, allow yourself a short pause and mentally delete the words when uttering the sentence. It’ll feel unnatural at first, but before long you’ll be a pro.

Ok

I think we can all agree this is one of the most annoying responses to get when texting someone. Second only to “k,” “Ok” is such a blah response. It makes you sound indifferent and unsure. Plus it’s not even a descriptive term! It basically means “satisfactory.” Who wants that? In text form, it can read like the end of a conversation or even a passive aggressive way to try to be agreeable. These two letters serve as a self-protecting mechanism to avoid giving concrete statements that could be hurtful. If someone asks for your opinion and you regularly offer “Yeah, it’s ok” to avoid hurting them, then you need to understand why it’s not ok to say ok !

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Awesome

This word is tricky. If someone tells you about an incredible trip they just took and you respond with, “Wow! That sounds awesome!” you’re probably being sincere. But if you tend to offer up this word regularly, you probably sound a little dense. Sorry! Saying “Awesome!” all the time makes people feel like you don’t have any of your own opinions. I know, I know, it’s just a word. But think about it for a second: When was the last time you were having a conversation and your friend seemed to say “awesome,” “oh wow. Awesome,” and “cool” after every other sentence? I’ve been in that situation before and it was really frustrating! I didn’t doubt that my friend actually felt that everything I was saying was “awesome,” but the overuse of the word became insincere quickly and made me want to stop sharing my story. It’s a vague word and usually over-exaggerated. I’d rather someone use multiple words to show enthusiasm or give me a compliment than just recycle one word over and over.

Um

Perhaps the most common filler word, “um” is, um, super, um, annoying! I hate to tell you this, but you probably say it so much more often than you realize. For one full day, try to keep a mental tally of how, um, often you, um say, “um.” It’s going to shock you. Even if you’re an intelligent person, overuse of the word makes you seem a bit delayed when it comes to processing thoughts. It’s simple enough to replace it. Instead of saying, “um,” try: “Let me think for a while.” You’re accomplishing the same goal, but the longer sentence gives you a proactive appearance and proves you want to take control the situation.

Like

Stop. Using. This. Filler. Word. If you have ever tried to sit through an hour of reality TV, then you know the word, “like” is the most common word (like) ever. If you’re oblivious enough to have never noticed it, you’re lucky. Once you start noticing, you can’t stop. The filler word makes you sound childish and it usually isn’t a necessary filler. While you could replace it with “such as” or something similar, if you really analyze a sentence before you speak it, you’ll find you don’t need it at all.

Actually

This word actually isn’t necessary in a majority of situations. The word itself tends to give the impression that whatever was uttered before was not true. If you take the time to look at sentences with this word, you’ll find that nearly all of them can be deleted without changing the meaning/message, while it makes the tone stronger and more direct. For example: The word choices you make can go a long way in showing the kind of person you are. Actually, word choices can predict the kind of person you can be in a conversation. The statement is redundant.

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Sorry

This apology can make you seem weak and insecure if used in the wrong context. While you should always want to apologize if a situation warrants it, using “sorry” too often or even habitually can lead to you seeming embarrassed and afraid. If you’re actually wanting to apologize for something, feel free to use the word. But if you’re embarrassed or nervous, explain those emotions in different terms.

Hopefully

While the word itself seems like it should be optimistic, it actually has the opposite effect: using this word implies you aren’t determined or confident enough! For example, if you were my boss and you asked that I have something done and on your desk in two hours, which response would you rather hear from me:

No problem. I’ll take care of that now and get it back to you shortly.

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Ok, sure. Hopefully it takes me a little less than two hours. I’ll bring it by when I’m done.

The second response doesn’t say outright that I won’t have the task completed, but it sure doesn’t seem confident. Hopefully means you don’t feel in control of something or confident enough you can create a change. In life, it will sometimes be necessary to be hopeful rather than overly confident, but when it comes to work situations, try to avoid the word as best you can.

The great thing about the list above is that it doesn’t take much effort to implement. In fact, all that’s required to stop using these unreliable-sounding words is self-awareness. Today is a new day. Be present in all conversations and realize how often you’re using the words listed. Then take the steps to replace them and ultimately delete them from casual chats and messages. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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