We all agree that effective communication is critical to successful relationships, and that it affects how colleagues perceive our personal brand.  What we may not realize, however, is that common phrases that we use in our everyday language can actually cause damage.

Here are four phrases you should remove from your communication immediately:

“No offense, but …” The only time people use the words “no offense” is if they think that whatever they say next is probably going to offend whomever they are talking to.  If you are concerned about saying something that will hurt someone’s feelings, re-think what you are saying or how you are saying it.  Is it necessary?  Is there a kinder way to re-phrase it?  Simply adding “no offense” before you say something hurtful is probably not enough, and it can negatively impact the trust and rapport you have with that person.

“To be honest …” Think about what this phrase implies.  That everything you said before were lies?  I think when we use this phrase we actually mean “I’m going to be very direct now.”  We just want them to know we’re not going to be politically correct, cautious or gentle with what we’re about to say. We’re trying to give them a head’s up that we’re about to be direct – and that’s okay!  Instead of saying “To be honest” I recommend asking “Can I be direct?” That way they’ve gotten a subtle warning without you unintentionally implying you were being less than honest before. 

“I’m so busy …” We’re all busy. Period. And many people will assume that being busy is a negative. By saying “I’m so busy” you could be saying “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I’m too busy for you,” even if that’s not what you meant.  I caught myself doing this recently when I told a colleague “March is going to be crazy for me, I’m so busy.”  In my mind, being busy is great news, and March is going to be a terrific month. But I realized that he thought I was complaining or feeling stressed out.  So, I’ve made the commitment to simply stop saying how busy I am!

“I’m sorry but I don’t agree …” Why should we apologize for having a different opinion than a coworker?  Again, our intention is likely to soften the blow, so to speak, and to make sure we don’t hurt their feelings by disagreeing.  Women especially tend to do this, but by saying “I’m sorry” before stating our opinion and thoughts we are actually diluting our own power and diminishing our personal brand. Colleagues may not take us as seriously if we apologize for expressing ourselves.  Only apologize when you’ve done something wrong.

The first step in removing these ineffective and sometimes damaging communication habits is to first be aware if you are using them.  If so, you’ll start to hear yourself saying them, and then you can begin to stop yourself.

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