I think we can all agree that credibility goes a long way when it comes to your career. Having it opens doors—not having it leaves you outside on the stoop, debating whether you can fit through a window on the second floor.
Yes, the words that come out of your mouth matter—and I’m not just talking about erasing the likes, ums, and uhs. (You learned that in Sound Smarter 101.) There are other commonly used words that seem normal—but that are sneakily hurting your credibility every time you say them by suggesting that you lack commitment and capability.
So, before you enter another conversation with your boss, co-worker, or friend, make sure you eliminate these five from your vocabulary.
Almost is a seemingly innocuous word that we use all the time: “I’m almost finished.” “I’m almost there.” “I almost submitted my application to my dream company.”
I didn’t realize this word was a problem, until a speaker I was listening to pointed out that “almost” implies not going all the way. And it’s true. Whenever I say I “almost” did something—the truth is I didn’t. I didn’t finish, I didn’t arrive, I didn’t submit my application to my dream company.
So the next time you’re about to tell your boss that you’ve almost completed the project, don’t. Instead, share the progress you’ve made, give a time estimate for the parts still underway, and show that you can get the work done.
The problem with “someday” is similar to “almost”—it reveals a lack of urgency. We’re “someday” going to start that side project, “someday” going to learn to code, “someday” going to find a better job. But right now, we’re too busy.
I probably don’t have to tell you that delaying our dreams with this word isn’t good. It’s also not great to respond to your supervisor’s assignments and co-worker’s requests with “someday.” If you’re truly swamped with work and can’t add a new project onto your plate, it’s better to say no (or ask to shift around other priorities), rather than to agree to and self-impose a nonexistent deadline.
Yes, we’re always encouraged to keep trying when it comes to reaching our goals. But at some point you have to stop trying, and just start doing. Otherwise your co-workers will lose faith in your abilities.
Besides, expressing that we’ll “try” something implies that we’re not willing to assume full responsibility. Think about it: Would you rather let someone who wants to try to fix the problem take charge, or someone who wants to fix the problem? The latter, we’re sure.
So, when it comes to discussing unfinished projects with your team, don’t talk about what you tried to do—but what you actually did. And, if you must present the end goal or what you’re “trying” to achieve, highlight the tangible action steps so that you’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
We get it: Making decisions, whether they’re career-related, finance-related, or people-related, is tough. But that doesn’t give us an excuse to go around saying we “might” do this and “might” do that—only to change our minds a few hours later. As human as it is to oscillate between options, our credibility decreases when our indecision affects our colleagues. After all, why should others feel confident in our choices if the words coming out of our mouths are filled with uncertainty?
If you’d like to become more assertive (without becoming a jerk, of course), replace “might” and “might not” with “will” and “won’t.” The higher level of commitment in these latter words will, at the very least, make you appear like a reliable decision-maker.
“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities,” writes Charles Dickens in David Copperfield.
Compared to “will,” “wish” is passive and paints the image of a daydreamer waiting and waiting. Just consider the phrases “I wish I was a programmer” and “I will become a programmer,” for instance. The latter sounds much more likely to take action. (The former also sounds like you’re talking to a genie.)
Now, we know that you can’t just eliminate these (very) common words from your vocabulary overnight. But, you can maybe try to start working on it someday soon.
A board member of Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, Kat is either hosting inspiring founders or trekking across cities (Silicon Valley and London, anyone?) to discover the hottest startups. And, when she’s not putting together large-group gatherings for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Kat is planning food excursions to discover the best Taiwanese beef noodle soup in NYC. The only thing she loves almost as much as crafting content as an Editorial Intern at The Muse is studying content as an English Major at Columbia University. Say hi on Twitter @katxmoon.More from this Author