I don’t like the idea of new year’s resolutions much, but I do like setting goals for myself. One of my goals this year has been to stop saying certain pointless phrases, like “to be honest.” In the process I’ve found myself becoming very aware of the other dumb things people say, too. Here are my top five.
“To be honest.”
You’ve been dishonest with me in the past and am only starting to be honest now? Is that what you wanted to have me think? The Urban Dictionary advises that it “can be used in any sentence as long as you agree with yourself” and that it is “the crutch of a idiot who uses it to append declarative sentences in order to sound more authoritative.”
As far as I’m concerned the only thing that will ever be described by me in this way is whatever the goop is that Verti Marte in New Orleans puts on their “All That Jazz” sandwich. Unless you’re describing a delicious sauce you sound like an idiot. I also remind you that you may not have awesome sauce, secret sauce, or other foods in the data center.
“I could care less.”
Did you really mean “you couldn’t care less?” Please care more about the accuracy of the words you speak. You’re probably the type of person who sends me summer meeting invites in CST and writes shell scripts that don’t specify the full path to filesystem objects which, when run from cron, crap all over the wrong filesystem and get me paged at 3 AM.
I think the Urban Dictionary sums it up nicely here:
“I did something bad, and I recognize that I did something bad, but there is nothing that can be done for it now, and there is technically no reason to apologize for that error, so let’s just assume that I won’t do it again, get over it, and move on with our lives.”
Ruder than apologizing, but with the same meaning: a flippant apology.
Try “oh crap, I’m really sorry” instead, and sound like you mean it. Also, you’re fired for waking me up at 3 AM and using “my bad” as the apology. Not that I’m upset or anything, it’s a business decision. You’ll eventually say something like that to a customer I wanted to keep.
I have, um, bailed out on one live presentation, two conference calls, and one webinar so far this year because the, um, presenter, um, cannot stop talking without saying “um.”
The occasional “uhm” is natural, especially when pondering questions from people, but when it gets to be more than once per paragraph of material it is very distracting. It is a sign that the presenter doesn’t know the material. I eventually can only hear the “uhms” and I leave because my time is valuable. Get some notes, or don’t be in a position to talk about things you don’t know much about.
It takes practice to learn to speak and pause without saying anything. It also takes practice to unlearn the habit of saying other stupid things. In most cases we use these phrases because we don’t know what else to say. Try expanding your vocabulary a little by finding a word or two that can be substituted. Or pinch yourself hard every time you catch yourself saying these things. The more you work on it the more you’ll find that people want to listen to you.