There are certain phrases that make me cringe. “You’ve got to . . .” is one of them. It’s not just the grammar usage, but the message. I often hear speakers, consultants and others providing guidance with words that imply absolutes. I fired a vendor years ago that used this term in almost every sentence uttered to clients. When your language choice corners people, they’re bound to eventually strike back – or tune out.
“You need to,” “you have to” and “just do this,” are more correct, but equally grating.
I’m no grammar guru (I never could understand those sentence diagrams we suffered through in high school), but do see language considerations as critical in how we make people feel – and act. The words you choose will affect your ability to influence, sell, comfort, perform and be seen as a credible resource.
Stating the unnecessary
Tell me how great you are and I’m going to wonder. Hearing phrases like “in my expert opinion,” “according to my vast research,” and “my years of experience have taught me,” gets my internal voice busy with translations:
In my expert opinion: Says you because no one else will
According to my vast research: Oh, boy, here’s another source I’m going to have to fact check with scrutiny
My years of experience have taught me: Right – you haven’t opened a book to expand your knowledge since high school
Stretching the truth
Does anyone else question veracity when someone starts off with “in my honest opinion”?
Sometimes I wonder if people understand half the words in their resume. Sentences that contain twenty adjectives (or worse, adverbs) get my head spinning. Then there are those that try to hide their lack of knowledge by filling the piece with industry jargon. What makes anyone think the human resource staffer screening applications is jargon savvy? Or that a higher-up will assume you’re a wizard because you throw some terminology his way?
I know an extremely accomplished gal who did not go to college. Later in life, she was awarded an honorary doctorate. Now she’s Dr. everywhere her name appears. I don’t get it. She doesn’t need a title to gain credibility. She already has it. This decision is undermining it.
Go to words
We’re all guilty of it (please point out mine when you see them), but sometimes the wrong ones can create dissonance. I know an author who uses the word “terrific” in everything she writes, repeatedly. Granted, Microsoft Word has redefined this term, but a writer should at least consult a dictionary once in a while with words she uses constantly. The etymology on this one is terror (Latin, terrificus). That’s certainly not the meaning she’s going for.
So many patterns go unnoticed, but do it too much and you’ll lose your listener. “You know” (no I don’t) and “like I said” (then why are you repeating yourself?) are two that will get you. Have you ever attended a speech where you stopped listening to what was being said and counting how many times a go to word was used?
What phrases make you cringe?
Do you have language choices that drive you crazy? Phrases someone you know uses to excess? Go to words of mine you’ve caught and are willing to point out (I’ll recognize you in a future blog post, with permission, of course)? Please share in the comments below.