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9 words and phrases that make you look less smart, less competent, and less accomplished than you really are

9 words and phrases that make you look less smart, less competent, and less accomplished than you really are

office work coworker man woman talking conversation

  • The language you use when you’re talking to yourself affects your behavior. Certain words can make it harder to achieve your goals.
  • Your language also affects how other people perceive you. Certain words and phrases can make you seem less intelligent.
  • To that end, we collected a series of words and phrases to avoid whenever possible.

It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it that matters. Even if you’re only talking to yourself.

And there are certain words and phrases that are often counterproductive. Below, Business Insider has rounded up a series of those words and phrases to avoid, based on recommendations from psychologists, engineers, and workplace experts.

Read on to see which items to eliminate immediately from your vocabulary — and what to replace them with.

SEE ALSO: 33 things you should never say to your boss

Instead of ‘I can’t’ say ‘I don’t’

A 2012 study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research and cited in The Harvard Business Review, found that telling yourself “I can’t” doesn’t work nearly as well as telling yourself “I don’t.”

That means “I don’t eat brownies” works better than “I can’t eat brownies” — though the strategy helps with any goal, whether it’s procrastinating less or working out more.

In one experiment in the study, women participating in a 10-day health and wellness seminar were given different strategies for reaching their goals. Results showed that the participants who said “I can’t” were unlikely to persist for the full 10 days — even less likely than participants who learned to “just say no.” Yet eight of the 10 participants who said “I don’t” stuck it out for the full experiment.

Instead of ‘but’ say ‘and’

In his book “The Achievement Habit,” Stanford engineering professor Bernard Roth explains why “but” is generally a word to avoid when you’re talking to yourself.

He writes: “When you use the word but, you create a conflict (and sometimes a reason) for yourself that does not really exist.” Meanwhile, when you use the word and, “your brain gets to consider how it can deal with both parts of the sentence,” Roth writes. 

For example, instead of saying, “I want to go to the movies, but I have work to do,” Roth suggests telling yourself, “I want to go to the movies, and I have work to do.”

The word swap helps you see that it’s possible to do both activities — you just need to find a solution, whether that’s seeing a shorter movie or delegating some of your work.

Instead of ‘have to’ say ‘want to’

In the same book, Roth recommends a simple exercise: The next few times you say “I have to” in your mind, change have to want.

“This exercise is very effective in getting people to realize that what they do in their lives — even the things they find unpleasant — are in fact what they have chosen,” Roth writes.

For example, one of Roth’s students felt he had to take the math courses required for his graduate program, even though he hated them. At some point after completing the exercise, he realized that he really did want to take the classes because the benefit of completing the requirement outweighed the discomfort of sitting through classes he didn’t enjoy.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider