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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

100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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