Ban these 3 weak words to instantly become more persuasive

10 Motivational Quotes for Success at Work

Hint: It's your fear that holds you back from convincing others.

We all want to look professional, be more successful, and learn the linguistic tricks that can help us get there quickly.

Here's some advice that will help. It revolves around three words.

Quick story: My wife's uncle had a successful sales career. Once, when he wanted to share a story with me, I got an insight into one of his secrets. He started by saying:

"Bill, I think you're really going to find this interesting ... "

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It was a smart introduction. Just a few short words, seemingly extraneous, but they subtly put the focus on me, not him. They suggested he'd chosen this particular story not just because he wanted to tell it, but also because he thought I'd like to hear it. I couldn't help myself; it made me want to listen.

It's funny how small things can communicate so much, but it works both ways--positive and negative.

Writing in The New York Times, Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, calls out the three words you should stop using:

"I feel like ... "

They're weak words, weasel words, conflict-avoiding words. Words that we use when we don't have the courage of our convictions, and we'd rather hedge our bets and say something in a calculated way that sacrifices certainty for safety.

And yet, they're common--and only becoming more so. I'm sure you see it in your work and in your life. People who are afraid simply to say what they mean, and feel instead that they have to couch their convictions with language about how they feel.

"The imperfect data that linguists have collected indicates that 'I feel like' became more common toward the end of the last century," Worthen writes. "But make no mistake: 'I feel like' is not a harmless tic."

Incontrovertible opinions

Qualifying your opinion disqualifies your remarks. It makes it sound as if you're not even sure of what you're saying. If you're not even sure, why should anyone else be convinced?

Worthen continues: "'I feel like' masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings too--but the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks," because who can disagree with you?

You're not saying that the sky is blue or water is wet; you're merely suggesting that you subjectively perceive it that way. And if others perceive it differently, that's OK too.

Perhaps most dangerous, Worthen writes, "This linguistic hedging is particularly common at universities, where calls for trigger warnings and safe spaces may have eroded students' inclination to assert or argue. It is safer to merely 'feel.'"

Exceptions and synonyms

There are exceptions, of course--but they should be mindful exceptions.

You might use the phrase "I feel like" to soften a blow. ("I feel like maybe you're not happy here, and we're going to offer you a severance package so you can find something else you'd rather be doing.")

There are other synonymous preambles that can undermine you just as easily, of course. Things like:

"It just seems like ... "

"I might be wrong, but ... "

"This is probably a stupid question, but ... "

The CEO of my company sometimes asks questions casually, as if they're throwaways. But when he adds the phrase, "just curious," I know they're very important to him.

"Bill, just curious, did you get a chance to close the deal with XYZ Corporation, like you said you would?" (I'm on to you, boss.)

This, I believe

I write prescriptive columns like this one, and sometimes I'm concerned that people won't give themselves a break. Yes, it's good to husband your use of weak phrases--but we all use them. Nobody is "on" 100 percent of the time, nobody I'd want to spend much time with, anyway.

But I also know that sometimes people with good, smart ideas undermine their persuasiveness by using these kinds of verbal crutches. Don't deprive the world of your solutions. Stand up for your beliefs, and let your language reflect it.

What do you think? Linguistic crutch or harmless phrase? Let us know in the comments below, and download the free bonus e-book The Big Free Book of Success.

RELATED: Now see the worst body language mistakes you can make during an interview:

10 worst body language mistakes during interviews
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Ban these 3 weak words to instantly become more persuasive

Body language expert Tonya Reiman, author of "The Power of Body Language," previously told Business Insider that job candidates should make sure they offer the "appropriate amount of eye contact." 

"If you don't, the interviewer will assume you are either insecure, don't have an appropriate answer for the question being asked, or are being deceptive. Does that mean it's true? No, but perception is everything in a job interview."

Reiman said smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy. 

"It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back. Without the smile, an individual is often seen as grim or aloof," she explained.

This may give the interviewer the impression that you're bored or uninterested in the conversation. Instead, keep your hands on the desk or table, and don't fidget.

In their book "Crazy Good Interviewing," John B. Molidor, Ph.D., and Barbara Parus suggest showing your palms during an interview — since the gesture indicates sincerity — or pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple. which displays confidence, reports Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz.

Reiman previously told Business Insider you should always be aware of your posture.

"People don't realize that the job interview begins in the waiting room, but it does. So don't slouch in the chair in the reception area," she advised. "In order to be perceived as confident, you must sit or stand tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, and chest slightly protruding."

This position changes the chemicals in our brain to make us feel stronger and more confident, and it gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality, she explained.

Playing with your hair, touching your face, or any other kind of fidgeting can be a major distraction for your interviewer. It also demonstrates a lack of power, said Reiman.

This gesture will tell the interviewer you're not comfortable or you're closed off. 

"You should always keep your hands in view when you are talking," Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of "SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and Charisma," previously told Business Insider. "When a listener can't see your hands, they wonder what you are hiding." To look honest and credible, keep your arms uncrossed and show your hands.

"When we touch our faces or hair, it is because we need self soothing,"Reiman explained.

Is that the message you want to send to your interviewer

A weak handshake may tell the interviewer that you're nervous, shy, and that you lack confidence, explains Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, a customer experience consultancy, in a LinkedIn post

Ideally, your handshake should be firm, but not overbearing. "The secret to a great handshake is palm-to-palm contact," Wood told Business Insider. You want to slide your hand down into the web of theirs, and make palm-to-palm contact. Lock thumbs, and apply an equal amount of pressure.

"It's okay to use your hands to illustrate a few important points," writes Lebowitz. "In fact, research suggests that staying too still can give the impression of coldness. 

"But relying too much on hand gestures can be distracting, according to Molidor and Parus."

She says you should remember you're in a job interview, not a theater audition. 

People tend to show their dominating personality by gripping the interviewer's hand and palming it down, but this tells the interviewer that you need to feel powerful, Reiman explained. "Instead, the handshake should be more natural: thumbs in the upward position and two to three pumps up and down."

As the applicant, you should always wait for the interviewer to extend their hand first, she added. 


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