What you say, when you say it and how you say it matters. Sometimes your intention is not how you are perceived. A person has only seven seconds to make a first impression, so what you say first matters most.
Here are several common phrases that can kill the deal before you or your team even get started.
1 – “Let me be Honest”
This is one of the most common expressions of this kind. It also pops up as “honestly,” or “let me be honest with you.”
When you use this caveat, you’re warning your audience that everything else you’re saying may not be true. Suppose you announce, “Our team will complete this on time, but to be honest, it’s going to take a big push.” The second half of the sentence beginning with “to be honest” implies that the first half might not be true.
Why plant doubts in your customer’s mind? Remove this caveat and only state what you know to be true.
2 – “I’m not sure”
We often hear this one from people who may be perfectly sure of their views but want to sound humble. A junior staffer might say, “I’m not sure, but I think we can cut our meeting time down by one hour. Here’s how.” By the time we get to “here’s how” we’ve ruled out any wisdom from this fledging team member.
Eliminate a phrase that declares, “Don’t listen to me.” Just plunge into what you believe. Others will listen to you and respond to your good ideas.
3 –“ I could be wrong”
This expression projects weakness and uncertainty—why should anyone care about those views?
If a financial analyst says, “We expect inflation to increase, but I could be wrong,” we don’t know what to believe. The expert essentially has ruled himself out as an expert.
Leave this caveat out and deliver a more thoughtful response: “We expect that inflation will increase. Here’s why.…” Expand on those points, and show you’ve considered various contingencies. Don’t create the impression that you’re over your head in dealing with the subject.
4 – This is probably a stupid question
This is a self-inflicted wound. Listeners will immediately discount the words that follow. Imagine a job interview where a candidate asks, “This is probably a stupid question, but can you tell me whether I could work from home.” In fact, it is a stupid question. The candidate portrays that they haven’t done their research—and shows they don’t deserve the job.
If your question is valid, ask it. If it’s not, don’t. But don’t flag it as a dumb question.
5 – “If you don’t mind”
This caveat, along with expressions such as, “Do you mind?” or “If that’s okay,” weakens you—and sounds a bit edgy.
One might say to someone they admire, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you how you built such a successful career.” The prefatory expression, “If you don’t mind,” makes it sound like the speaker is entering territory where she may not belong. It suggests the listener could mind the question. If you use this phrase when asking about someone’s health or job, you might be hinting that what follows is rude.
If you’re close enough to that person, and the question is appropriate and important, ask it without the caveat. Otherwise, holding back is the best way to go.