Things Successful Leaders Avoid Saying (Part 14)

As a political junkie, I’ve been watching political coverage on news outlets lately. There are three words/phrases I’ve heard repetatively that I worry might creep into workplace discussions. They are:

Let me be clear

Look

Listen

All three of these words/phrases are time killers, a way to hold their place “in line” before getting interrupted by a talking head, or it is used as an emphasis word to really hammer home the next point. Whereas these words/phrases might work on TV talk shows (I personally don’t think they do), be careful about using them at work.

  • Let me be clear

Why I get it: The speaker wants to emphasize that if you only hear one thing, make it this next thing.

Why I don’t like it: Much like the phrases “I’ll be honest with you” or “to tell you the truth,” “Let me be clear” implies that earlier words were unclear. Therefore, what the speaker said before was unimportant or not the main point, and you could have ignored all of it.

What to say instead: “What I want you to remember is this…,” “The bottom line…,” or nothing. Or, what if you skip the phrase and just say what you want to say without the filler words?

  • Look and its cousin Listen

(Listen as in “Listen, I don’t think that’s a fair point.”)

Why I get it: With these words, the speaker wants to get into the conversation next and needs a moment to get their thoughts together. Another reason is that they want to assert their expertise on the issue.

Why I don’t like it: If you do this at work, it sounds like role power, and is accidentally demeaning and/or annoying. 

What to say instead: “Here’s what I think” or “Here’s how I feel” or “Here’s another thought on this.”  These phrases give you a moment, allow you to get into the conversation, and make it clear you have something to add.

Now, a personal note:

I don’t use the above words or phrases, but I have been trying to catch myself lately on the one I use often: “Here’s the thing…

Why I get it: It’s a verbal tic that gives me time to pause, while also emphasizing that I’m finally going to cut through the clutter and use fewer words to say my point.

Why I annoy myself with it: There’s very rarely one thing I want to emphasize, so I’m being inaccurate when I say it. Also, it’s wasted words; they’re not needed.

What I try to say instead: “Here’s a thing” is what I say when I’ve already got “Here’s the thing” out of my mouth. Or, “This is what I’m trying to get at, and I may have used too many words before…” Alternatively, cutting out all of these phrases and just saying what I want to say is probably the best option.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

To read the previous posts about “Things Successful Leaders Avoid Saying,” click on the links below.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13

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