13 Words That Undermine Your Authority And Your Intelligence

Strip these from your vocabulary, and reap the professional benefits.

Things Not to Say at Work
(Image credit: Archives)

No matter your intelligence level, there are certain words or phrases that will make even the smartest, most in-control person sound less authorative. Dictionary.com recently released a list of five words that don't do you any justice. The five words won't surprise you, but we decided there's quite a few more make it difficult for you to get your point across in the workplace. Check out the list from Dictionary.com below, and read on for our eight additions.

1. "Actually." More often than not, the word "actually" is used to describe something that isn't "actually" true. Using this adverb to add an extra punch doesn't make your sentence more captivating, but it might make you sound less intelligent.

2. "Basically." The word "basically" adds emphasis and significance to a phrase. Use it when you want to make a point, not when you're being melodramatic.

3. "Literally." Why is it that a word that's supposed to express something in its realest state is most commonly used when expressing an exaggeration? Try to limit the use of "literally" to when it is literally 75 degrees outside, or that overdue package literally arrived today.

4. "Like." Unless you're using it to express your affinity for something, this word is a plague on the English language. It's littered in phrases it shouldn't be, always makes a sentence sound less certain and usually, makes the speaker be taken less seriously.

5. "Honestly." This word often adds the "wow" factor to a statement you're making. Honesty is something that people don't take lightly, so remember that next time you drop it into conversation.

A small word can make all the difference of the respect you receive from co-workers and your boss. Rid these self-doubting phrases and empty filler words from your repitoire and watch your at-work confidence grow.

1. "Sorry." As a gender, women apologize way, way too much. If you have something to say, say it—don't apologize for it. The minute an apology leaves your lips, you're discrediting what's to follow. Save your apologies for when they're truly necessary—they'll be more sincere that way.

2. "Just." Adding "just" to any sentence instantly makes you seem shy and unsure of what you're saying. Think about if you heard someone say: "I'm just worried that…" versus "I'm worried that…" The second sounds much more confident than the first, and as such, is going to get more attention.

3. Uptalk. Chances are, you frequently fall to the natural tendency to raise your voice an octave or two higher at the end of a sentence, making even the most solid of statements sound like a question. Drop the uptalk, and it will instantly make you sound more sure of yourself.

4. "Kind of." Adding "kind of" to any statement immediately drops the certainty behind the meaning. The term "kind of" is generally dropped into a sentence in order to soften the blow of what could potentially reject someone else's idea or opinion. But when you sound like you're not sure of what you're saying, other people won't support your point of view.

5. "I think." Similar to "kind of", saying "I think" undermines whatever it is you're saying. Even when we're sure about something, we have the tendency to say that we "think" it rather than "know" it. Maybe you're trying not to come on too strong. But really, it just makes you look weak.

6. "No problem." When someone thanks you, whether it was for holding the door open for a stranger or doing a colleague a last minute favor at work, it's still an effort on your part. Responding to a "thank you" with "no problem" shrugs off your hard work. Saying you're welcome is more gracious and acknowledges the help you provided.

7. "Do you know what I mean?" When you drop a "do you know what I mean?" or "do you get what I'm saying?" in after a sentence, you make it sound as though you did not effectively communicate your thoughts. Before your colleagues even have the opportunity to share their thoughts with you, you shrug them off as difficult to comprehend. Believe you are a good communicator, and your speech will follow.

8. "I'll try." Be honest with your supervisor or colleagues if there's a project you don't think you can take on at that time, instead of starting off by telling someone that you'll "try" to accommodate their request—it could decrease their faith in you and your abilities.


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Diana Pearl

I'm an Associate Editor at the Business of Fashion, where I edit and write stories about the fashion and beauty industries. Previously, I was the brand editor at Adweek, where I was the lead editor for Adweek's brand and retail coverage. Before my switch to business journalism, I was a writer/reporter at PEOPLE.com, where I wrote news posts, galleries and articles for PEOPLE magazine's website. My work has been published on TheAtlantic.com, ELLE.com, MarieClaire.com, PEOPLE.com, GoodHousekeeping.com and in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It has been syndicated by Cosmopolitan.com, TIME.com, TravelandLeisure.com and GoodHousekeeping.com, among other publications. Previously, I've worked at VOGUE.com, ELLE.com, and MarieClaire.com.