Three Poisonous Words That Kill Your Credibility- Every Time

8B52mxPq_400x400I hear these three appalling words every day. Surely those saying them must realise how terrible they sound? These words undermine everything about you. Do you say them? If ‘yes,’ then please- stop!!! Here’s the rant.

I’m in the middle of my ‘100 cups of coffee’ as I clarify the shape of my next career move. Actually, I’m well over 100 cups by now. It’s been a privilege. Catching up with many contacts of old. Talking opportunity with friends and colleagues. Making new contacts. And listening to many requests for help on businesses from strangers.

It’s the strangers who usually do it. They’re trying to impress, and make a fast connection. So they resort to these three words to attempt to show authenticity. It fails every time. It backfires. Whatever you do, never say this…never:

“To be honest….”

Followed by those other two close relatives, “To tell you the truth…” or… ‘I won’t lie to you…..”

Eradicate them from your vocabulary. Send them to the never-never land. Erase them from your memory. Refuse to ever let these toxic phrases pass your lips again.

My reaction on hearing these words is simply this: “Oh- so you have been lying to me all the time then?” Or, “Good- so at long last you are going to stop being dishonest. I take it all you have already said was just pure lies and crap.”

Okay. Calm down. I know those of you who use these phrases are growling that you’re only trying to preface a statement you believe is super candid. It’s a mini drum roll to a profound truth, often bravely exhibiting vulnerability. I get that. Fair enough. I do actually forgive those who say it, instantly.

Nevertheless, here’s my point.

Don’t say it. It’s just not helpful.

Just speak candidly. Don’t bother setting up the profound insight. Just say it. Try these for the preface if you really, really need one: “To be absolutely frank…”… “To be brutally blunt…”..or even this twist…” If I were to be absolutely honest with myself….”  Still not ideal, but better than the alternatives.

And if you hear those you care about saying ‘to be honest’ or one of its nasty variants, and you have the ability to counsel them to kapow this habit once and for all, then please do.

I won’t lie to you- it would make a grumpy, old, second rate PR guy happy.

And that’s the truth.


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36 Responses to Three Poisonous Words That Kill Your Credibility- Every Time

  1. Pod June 17, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    To be honest Chris- great article!

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am #

      Thanks POD!

    • Michele Harvet June 17, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

      To be Frank with you Chris you are dead right

      • Chris Savage June 18, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

        Thanks Michele!!

  2. peter salt June 17, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    love it Chris as always! and here i was thinking i was sounding that little more credible all along.

    These phrases are duly relegated to the sin bin along with “moving forward” et. al.

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am #

      Good to hear, Peter!

    • John June 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

      Ouch! Moving forward has to go too? Just used it yesterday. It’s in the bin.

      • Chris Savage June 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

        Good for you, John!

  3. Paul June 17, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    Trust me, I’m a doctor

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 10:59 am #

      Not likely.

  4. Paula Gaber McNulty June 17, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    Good catch. The list can go on and on. I’d add – in a separate category, perhaps – ‘I really think’. You speak all the time without really thinking as a matter of course? (Sadly, probably true of all of us!)

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 10:59 am #

      Thanks Paula!

  5. Mike Hyams June 17, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    I agree Chris, it’s like hearing nails across a blackboard. Another grating statement is the preamble ‘personally speaking’… what the hell have they been doing up to this point?

    • John June 18, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

      That one’s a classic, Mike.

  6. Stu June 17, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Could not agree with you more on this Chris, truth be told.

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 10:59 am #

      Stuart- good to hear from you! Was thinking of you just the other day, wondering how you were. Time for coffee. Chris

  7. Peter Baker June 17, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    Good stuff Chris. To be honest, I thought it was going to be about something else, like using puffy adjectives to embellish a pitch.
    Those words grate with me and your comments are spot on. My bitch is the overworked comment currently in vogue – “it’s problematic”. When I was much younger (not all that long ago) we used to say “It’s a problem”…,,

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

      You’re still young, Peter!

  8. Gillian June 17, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    This is so true – when people start saying those phrases it’s time to stop believing them.

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

      Agree- Gillian!

  9. Jane Jordan June 17, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Chris – great post and I totally agree! And time for a coffee too me thinks. Have an idea for a “grumpy old PR guy!” Cheers, Jane

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

      Thanks Jane- will be in touch. So long as you don’t say ‘Now, I won’t lie to you….”!!!!!

  10. sawicki June 17, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    Chris I would be Lying if I didn’t say good article !!!!!

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

      You should be in comedy, Dave!!

  11. Rowena Arnold June 17, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    As a newbie to your blogs I enjoyed your ‘rant’ this morning! As a recruiter (working in the Real Estate/Property arena) its critical to use dialogue that is both positive and assuring at all times. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

      Thanks Rowena

  12. Peter June 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    “To be honest” I really enjoyed this weeks possum Chris. Trust you’re enjoying all your cups of coffee – great time to reflect and recharge the batteries….

    • Chris Savage June 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks Peter!

  13. Aleisha June 18, 2015 at 9:34 am #

    I love that you ended with “I wont lie to you”. Very clever. Can we please also add to the NEVER SAY list: “Touch bases”
    I hate this saying it is so pomp-ASS. It really erks me when I hear someone say that to a client. Too impersonal and cliched.

    • Chris Savage June 18, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      Yes, Aleisha, have to admit I’m guilty of the ‘touch base’ one…and, sad to say, am a regular for ‘moving forward…’. !!

  14. Jaqui Lane June 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    With all due respect, before I share my thoughts I’d like to socialise my response.
    Chris, will now add TBH to my ever growing list of useless phrases. This from ‘the real Jaqui’.

  15. Bruce June 23, 2015 at 1:51 am #

    Nice article, but to be fair, they can just be a habitual figure of speech. I do remember an employment agent saying “to be fair” to me before renegotiating my contract, so despite his persuasive other arguments, I reasoned he was bluffing and I was right. So using these sayings can be costly, hearing them can be profitable.

    • Chris Savage June 24, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks Bruce. Agree.

  16. Bill August 6, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Just discovered this terrific blog and am catching up on recent posts. Have to admit this one caused me to guffaw out loud. I’ve an old buddy who’s an editor at the WSJ and once told me that whenever an interviewee used the phrase, “Well, to be perfectly honest…” he immediately called him on it. “Are you saying that all you’ve told me so far is total bullshit? Because I’m not going to use total bullshit in my piece!” He assured me that that ALWAYS got their attention. He was right, of course, as are you. Thanks for the insightful belly laugh!

  17. Evelyn December 13, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    I agee with you. When I hear someone say these words (or similar) I am more cautious when dealing with them. Another conversation starter that galls me when I hear it is “With all due respect…..” This tells me the person doesn’t respect the person they are addressing at all.

    • Chris Savage December 14, 2015 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks Evelyn!!!

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