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Phrases to Eliminate from Your Vocabulary in Order to Be Heard in the Workplace

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Apr. 21 2014, Published 4:39 a.m. ET

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We all want to be seen as smart, professional, hard working, and ambitious in the workplace.

However, despite our best intentions, the way we say things can heavily impact how we are viewed at work.

Simply changing the way in which we word certain phrases can help us to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Here are some phrases you might want to suggest removing from your vocabulary:

1. “I don’t know.”

Henry Devries, assistant dean for continuing education at the University of California San Diego, says that using this statement is a “cop out.” Now that sounds a little harsh; since high school, I have been told that honesty is always the best policy! However, there is a key second half missing to using the statement, “I don’t know.” Forbes journalist, Jenna Goudreau, reminds us that while we may not know the answer, we must also show that we are willing to take the next step and find out. She writes, “Then, you’re bridging the solution.” When you do this, both your colleagues and your employer will see you as a resourceful team player.

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2. “I’ll try…”

“I’ll try to do a good job.” “I’ll try to make it happen.” Am I the only one who doesn’t find this convincing? Leadership coach, Kendra Reddy, refers to these words as “non-committal.” Not only does it sound like you doubt your own capabilities, but you’re colleagues and employers are also going to doubt you. Being more direct in what you’re going to do will make you appear more confident and reliable, especially when you get the job done.

3. “I have to…”

Reddy writes, “‘I have to’ comes across as powerless. Proactive, powerful leaders don’t have to do things, they get to do things.” It’s not likely that we would use these words around our boss, but it’s really easy to go into complaining mode around our co-workers. Complaining about work and responsibilities can quickly cause people to make false accusations about who you are and what you live for.

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Gratitude and a positive attitude are the traits of a good leader. Just think about it- a person who is excited about the work they do is a lot more likely to be noticed and chosen for special assignments. Make an effort to see assignments as opportunities rather than tedious work. You’ll serve as a great example to those working around you and feel a lot more grateful about the opportunities placed in your life.

4. “It’s not fair…”

As women in the workplace, we especially know how unfair things can be. Unequal pay, lower job positions, less voice in decision-making- the list goes on. Sheila Wellington, Professor of Management and Organizations at NYU, shares a hard truth- many women fail to realize that we still have not achieved equality in the workplace. She writes, “They have it in their minds that it doesn’t matter if I’m a woman.” However, CNN journalist, Stephanie Chen, offers a tip on how we can deal with this fact and not let it impact our ability to perform. She writes, “By acknowledging the barriers ahead, such as the difficulties of reintegrating into the work force after having a child, women can better plan their careers.”

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Does this mean we should stop fighting for women’s equal rights? Of course not! The problem is that fighting for women’s rights in the workplace can get really personal, really fast, and it might be difficult to present your frustrations in a professional way. Chen suggests a positive alternative to handling this. She writes, “Instead, document the facts, build a case, and present an intelligent argument to the person or group who can help you.” By doing this, people will be more receptive to what you have to say and respect the way in which you communicate.

Are you starting to see the pattern here? The way in which we present ourselves can easily determine whether we are viewed as confident, eager, and accessible. Even further, these actions decide whether or not we earn opportunities in the workplace.

For more ideas on how to earn the opportunities you want, read the rest of Stephanie Chen’s article, “8 Ways Women Can Get Ahead in the Workplace.”

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