Two Phrases to Remove From Your Work Vocabulary—And What to Say Instead

Two Phrases to Remove From Your Work Vocabulary—And What to Say Instead

If you want to advance your career, you need to be seen as a confident professional who’s capable of handling the challenges of your job. Naturally, your performance is important—but did you know that your choice of words also influences other people’s perception of your professional abilities?

Just like slouching or avoiding eye contact can make you seem timid or even scared, your vocabulary can make you appear less confident and capable than you are. Here are two phrases to avoid at work—and what to say instead.

“I just wanted to…”

“I just wanted to ask if you’ve had time to review my report.” “I just wanted to alert you to an error in the statistics.” In sentences like these, the phrase “I just wanted to” implies that you have something to say but don’t want to impose or speak out of line. However, by using this phrase, you immediately put yourself in a deferential position in relation to the other person. To place yourself on an equal footing with the listener, focus on what you really want to say. “Have you had time to review my report?” and “There’s an error in the statistics” both communicate your message clearly and confidently.

“I’ll try to…”

Using this phrase communicates that you doubt your ability to do something—and that’s the last impression you want to give in a professional setting. For example, if you say, “I’ll try to get you that report by tomorrow,” you’re actually saying you might not be able to deliver the report the next day. Similarly, a sentence like, “I’ll try to find the most reliable data” communicates that you’re not sure you possess the skills or resources to find the data. In both examples, the listener may start to doubt your abilities. Instead of saying you’ll try to do something, it’s better to state precisely what you can do, such as, “Tomorrow won’t work for me, but I can send over the report by the end of the week.” Likewise, you could say, “I’ll start researching data, and if I have any questions, I’ll reach out to you.” These sentences are much more positive and give the listener the impression that you’re a confident and capable professional.

It will take some practice, but over time, you can teach yourself to use vocabulary that’s both positive and assertive. And once you’ve mastered this way of communicating, you’ll experience how your choice of words not only makes others perceive you as a capable professional, but also improves your self-confidence in the workplace.