Think of the last meeting you sat in on. How many times did the presenter say “um…” or “uh…”? If you started counting, then it may have affected your ability to retain any information or key points—more importantly, it could have caused you to think less of the person speaking. It sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Here are six common phrases to eliminate from your work vocabulary:


Saying “Thoughts?” at the end of an email chain, meeting, or conversation might seem like a good idea—It sounds polite and opens the conversation, but it isn’t helpful. It doesn’t outline next steps or identify action items. It provides no clear direction. And worst of all, it puts the onus on someone else to do the work of decision-making.

In an age of full inboxes, packed schedules, and meetings overload, you’ll stand out by taking initiative. Focus on figuring out what you can do to provide value in the short-term, and then articulate exactly that with as many deadlines and details as possible.

“I feel like”

We’ve all been there: that moment when you say, “I feel like . . .” and sound like a Valley Girl to the nth degree. This phrase is commonly used when we are unsure of its perception to the audience. So we throw it out there as self-protection in light of anticipated criticism. Removing this phrase gives you the confidence you need to be taken seriously, and honestly, more effective.

Cut to the chase and say what you really mean.

“No problem”

I used to reply with an automatic, upbeat “No problem!” when someone said, “Thank you.” I did this for everything from tiny tasks to major milestones, acting like it was no big deal even though I secretly appreciated the show of gratitude for my effort. “Why can’t I just say ‘you’re welcome’?” I finally wondered.

Insert lightbulb moment. For some reason, I thought accepting a compliment contrasted being humble, and that’s simply not true.  It feels good to be noticed, recognized, and appreciated. By saying, “You’re welcome,” you’re acknowledging your own work and really saying, “Yes, I did do that!”


Look through your emails, or chats even, and mentally remove all the times you use the word “just” when describing something you’re doing or going to work on and repeat the sentence without it. I’ll bet it still makes just as much sense. “Just” is a qualifying phrase; it sounds respectful, but it also positions you as a constant subordinate.

You use this word when you feel nervous about asking for what I need or guilty about imposing on someone’s time. And when paying attention to how often I said “just,” I realized that it served no real purpose and it doesn’t for you either.

“Does that make sense?”

A mentor once gave me a fantastic piece of advice: she suggested that I practice pausing, and waiting, after making a recommendation or delivering a presentation. “Practice being quiet?!” I didn’t think it was possible. But she was right.

Commonly after speaking, or presenting to coworkers you hear crickets. Then panic sets in and causes you to fill the space with unnecessary talk or questions like, “Does that make sense?” It’s important to invite feedback and check for clarity, but if someone has an opinion or feels confused about the topic, he or she will speak up (if not immediately, after the meeting.) You don’t have to preemptively suggest that you’re not being coherent.

“How do I . . .”?

Two words, GOOGLE. IT. Always, always, always Google your question before bringing it to a coworker or boss. Not only does this save time, but it makes you look efficient because you took the time to gather as many answers as possible on your own.

It might sound super obvious, yet I see it every day: People (myself included!) ask questions that could have been answered with a little digital detective work. Using the Internet to problem-solve (assuming you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of cute cat videos) can decrease your list of questions dramatically, which allows you to focus on the areas you really do need team support or guidance.

Be conscious of what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, and who you’re saying it to. Words have the power to help or hinder both performance and perception, especially in the workplace. Use yours carefully.

What not to say