9 Dumb Little Things You Need to Stop Saying Today


Most of us have things that we say habitually. These can be words or phrases, and we're often unconscious of them, at least until someone points them out. (See also: The 10 Stupidest Things Smart People Say)

Most of these don't harm anybody and they are part of what makes each one of us the person we are. However, whether you like it or not, other people will decide what type of person you are based on what you say.

If you're concerned about how you're coming across, consider eliminating the following words and phrases from your vocabulary.

1. "Not me" or "I don't deserve it"

It's hard to know how to accept a compliment, especially when you feel like you don't deserve it. However, saying "Not me," or "I don't deserve it," makes it look like you have poor self-esteem. Some of us were taught that it's polite to deny a compliment, but in fact it makes you seem like you are uncomfortable with yourself, don't know yourself, or aren't comfortable being good at something.

Most people don't offer genuine compliments when they don't mean them, so even if they don't know the situation or are giving you more credit than you deserve, they are telling you the truth as they see it. Instead of denying or deflecting the compliment, accept it as the gift it is and acknowledge that the person offering the compliment may see something in you that you don't.

2. "I told you so"

Most of us know that people don't like to hear "I told you so!", but sometimes we find ourselves saying it, or its equivalents, anyway. This makes you look like a jerk, an immature one, who cannot be with someone in their pain without turning the conversation back to you. It's so condescending!

Instead, empathize with the person and try to help them decide where to go next. Say, "Wow, that really sucks! I'm so sorry. What do you want to do now?"

3. "**&^#%!"

Sure, there's a time and a place for a well-placed f-bomb. Most of the time, though, cursing simply isn't necessary. There are plenty of more creative ways to express your sentiments, and most of them don't make you sound as stupid as you do when you are cursing all the time.

If you aren't sure how else to express your strong emotions, try thinking of an analogy. Coming up with some new imagery for your feelings makes you look creative or inventive, rather than like you are following the crowd.

4. "Um…"

So, you know that "um" is a filler word, which, at best, doesn't add anything to the conversation and, at worst, makes you look like you don't really know what you're talking about. You still say it, though, and, sure enough, you end up looking stupider than you actually are.

To get rid of your "ums", make sure you plan ahead for any speaking engagement. The better you know your material, the less likely you will be to need filler words. If you can't plan ahead, keep your words and sentences simple and short. This will keep you from getting stuck and using "um" until you can find the word you need.

5. "I know, right?"

This is a phrase that a lot of 20-somethings like to use to show their agreement. It's awkward, though, because it asks a question that the other person may not know whether or not to answer. Since you're asking them to affirm something they just said, using this can make the other person in the conversation confused, and it can make you look like you don't know what to say.

Instead of "I know, right?" just tell people you agree with them. Say, "Oh, yeah," or something equally innocuous, and let them continue with their story. If they are looking for more of a response from you, share your own experience with whatever they are describing. And if they just want to talk, it may be that you don't need to say anything at all.

6. "You'll be fine"

When something bad happens to someone we care about, we want to make them feel better. We want to make the situation better, so we tell them, "You'll be fine." Unfortunately, this is dismissive and sends a clear message that you aren't interested in listening to them. Even if this isn't at all what you want to say, this is your message when you use these words.

Many times, the best thing to say to someone who is hurting or facing a tragedy is nothing at all. There's nothing you can say that will make it better, and people who are hurting usually just want someone to be with them, to help them hold their pain, and to continue to be there no matter what happens.

7. "Like"

Unless you're making an analogy, saying "like" makes you sound like a Valley Girl. So if you want to come across as vapid and shallow, go ahead and say it. Otherwise, be ruthless in eliminating this from your vocabulary.

Sure, you've heard this before. We all have. But we still say "like" all the time. Even the least valley of all the people you know probably uses this more than they think they do. If you really want to stop, enlist the help of other people. Ask them to call you out when you say it, or make a mutual pact to do it for each other. If this isn't a good option, record yourself, identify the times when you use the word, and work from there to eliminate it.

8. "I think you should…"

If someone comes to you and asks, "What do you think I should do about this?" it's fine to give them advice. Otherwise, just don't. Offering advice when it wasn't requested makes you sound pompous, or at least like you enjoy appearing to be clever.

Instead, listen to what people share with you. Ask them good questions. Help them explore their experience and what it means to them. Many times, they will discover on their own what they want to do in the situation. Other times, they'll realize you're interested and will ask you your opinion, at which point you can dispense your advice.

9. "I'm not judging you, but…"

You may say that you aren't judging them, but you are. The very fact that you are thinking in terms of judging means that you are making some sort of judgement about them in your own head. And this isn't good for you or for them.

This is a hard phrase to eliminate because it often comes from having a judgemental attitude, which is much harder to change than simply a phrase. Start by thinking up reasons why the other person's actions might make sense, and speak to them from that place of understanding.

What do you say that you wish you could stop? What would you like to substitute it with? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

Joining Toastmasters will help to get rid of the filler words. There's a person assigned at each meeting whose job is to listen for filler words. You become conscious of them very quickly.

Guest's picture

I hate broadcasters who preface a question with "What a good (or great) question..." considering interviewees or callers have already been screened

Few questions are unique

Guest's picture

Sarah, you may be a good writer, but all of this is stupid people say to tick people off. Why not write and article that says what a smart person would have said instead. Give example and then write a good intelligent person would have said better. I have come across ALL of these situations and it's not what you say, but how you say it. Like the judging one. Don't judge, say, "Bad choice, but you can do better". I talk to people everyday and laugh at them inside, but given a positive swing on what you say and how you say it, makes anything, even sarcasm, makes the person feel a little better and less stand offish. Foul language is a NO. Just listen and then answer.

Guest's picture

How do you get someone to stop saying "sure" instead of yes. Sure, in this context, implies a form of disagreement or dissent.