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Stop Saying That! 12 Words and Phrases You Use That Drive People Nuts

Having missed out on involved grandparents, the author urges older folks to seize their chance to positively impact their grandchild's life.

We often have only a short period to make a positive impression. Using certain words and phrases can be an immediate turn-off.

We often have only a short period to make a positive impression. Using certain words and phrases can be an immediate turn-off.

Right or Wrong, People Judge Us By the Words We Use

When meeting people for the first time, we quickly get judged by how we look. Opinions, right or wrong, get formed in an instant about our intelligence, our motives, our social class, our confidence level, and our education. A man wearing a suit and tie immediately is seen as intelligent, professional, and successful even though we know nothing about his history. A woman wearing a pencil skirt and high heels is seen as classy, smart, and sophisticated even though we know nothing other than her taste in fashion.

People also draw sweeping conclusions based on the initial words that come out of our mouths, sometimes judging us quite harshly. So what might you be uttering that gets such an unfavorable reaction from listeners? Here are 12 things you say that annoy people, but they're too polite to mention it:

1. Listen

Political pundits, sports commentators, and almost anyone giving an opinion on television or radio today start their sentences with the extremely grating, listen. Unfortunately, the word has taken hold in the workplace as well, often getting used in meetings, presentations, and anywhere a speaker wants to sound authoritative. Listen, though, is a real turnoff to most people because it seems like a command. In addition to sounding bossy, it comes off as patronizing like you have all the answers. It screams, "everyone just be quiet, hear my words, and learn from them."

2. Look

Look has become another insidious way for politicians and commentators on TV and radio to begin their sentences. It's typically used as a filler, giving the speaker extra seconds to gather his thoughts. But like listen, it sounds like a command, making anyone who hears it have an immediate negative reaction. Women especially find listen and look to be offensive when coming from a male co-worker as it comes off dominating and condescending. Don't say it, guys!

3. I Don't Know

While using listen and look at the beginning of a sentence sounds domineering, ending a sentence with I don't know sounds the opposite: wimpy and pathetic. Some people have gotten into the bad habit of adding I don't know to their speech, negating what they've just said: “I think she would make an outstanding president. But, I don't know.” If you have an opinion, speak it with confidence. If not, don't bother to open your mouth. Saying "I don't know" just makes you seem insecure and lacking conviction.

4. Let Me Educate You

This phrase has gained popularity in recent years but should definitely be put to rest. The speaker who uses educate comes off sounding superior like a teacher talking down to a child. He seems to be saying that he has all the answers, and the listener is an empty vessel that needs to be filled with his knowledge. Ugh!

Unless you're a teacher talking to a student, you should avoid saying "let me educate you." It sounds condescending and people tune you out.

Unless you're a teacher talking to a student, you should avoid saying "let me educate you." It sounds condescending and people tune you out.

5. At the End of the Day

This phrase is ubiquitous in conversations today but shows a total lack of originality and deliberate thought. People sound like they're on auto pilot when they use it, just talking to talk and fill up dead air. It communicates absolutely nothing and would only have value if you were getting paid by the word.

6. Like

If you want to sound as if your IQ has miraculously gone up 30 points, stop saying like. Not only is it annoying to hear, it makes you sound like a bubble-headed teenager, not a grownup person. I was recently watching a reality show in which the lead said like multiple times every time he spoke. I might have let this slide if he were a 16-year-old, but he was a 36-year-old! It's like just slow down your speech and like think about what you're going to say before you like say it.

7. That's So Gay

While most of us have become more politically correct and socially conscious, this offensive comment is still used frequently today, especially by young males. We've moved out of prehistoric times when gays were seen as a monolithic group who adored Liza Minnelli, listened to show tunes, had great fashion sense, and dabbled in floral design. As the proud mother of a gay son who fits none of these stereotypes, I believe any guy who says this is not only ignorant but insecure in his own masculinity. These words hurt a minority group by perpetuating a stereotype. That's why I find them more egregious than the others on the list and will call you out for using them.

When Someone Says "That's So Gay," It's Time to Call Them Out.

8. Literally

Most people who use literally do it incorrectly, not understanding its meaning. They say, “I had so much studying to do that my brain literally exploded” or “I literally threw up when I tasted her pie.” In these two examples, the speaker used literally correctly only if his brain was actually destroyed by a blast and he truly vomited when he ate the dessert. These sentences are examples of figurative, not literal, language and are used to make a dramatic point. So unless you want to call attention to your ignorance, it's best to stop using literally.

9. Amazing and Awesome

When I was in elementary school, our teacher had a bulletin board that featured a graveyard with overused adjectives such as good, nice, and pretty. It was a visual reminder for us to consider these words dead and not use them in our speech and writing. Today, two other words must be added to that list: amazing and awesome. They're so old and tired. If you're an adult using them, you sound like you're trying too hard to seem young and hip but are failing miserably. Age gracefully by finding more sophisticated-sounding adjectives to use!

10. I'm Broken

If you're someone who wails “I'm broken” whenever there's a bump in the road of life, you sound hysterical and high-maintenance. This melodramatic description of yourself tells others that you're prone to hyperbole and are very self-focused. Nobody wants to be in the position of picking up the pieces and putting you back together. So if friends are dropping out of your sphere, you might want to consider words that aren't so over-the-top.

This popular over-the-top description makes you sound like a real drama king or queen. Tone it down a little and people will take you more seriously!

This popular over-the-top description makes you sound like a real drama king or queen. Tone it down a little and people will take you more seriously!

11. Me and My Friend

If you're saying me and my friend and not the grammatically correct my friend and I, you either slept through 13 years of schooling, dropped out after second grade, or just enjoy sounding dumb. When you begin a sentence this way, everyone within earshot is cringing and wondering why our tax dollars are going to fund public education when we get such pitiful results. We're definitely not the grammar police, but this is just so basic we want to scream!

12. Be Mindful

If you're into living a life of intention, practicing yoga, and meditating, be mindful may be one of your favorite things to say. Be careful, though, because it's getting overused to the point of irritation. The principal at my son's school uses it to distraction: “Be mindful that Monday is a holiday and we'll have no school...Be mindful that kids often stay up too late and come to school tired...Be mindful that school lunches should contain fruit and vegetables and no sugary treats.” It's a little too much and sounds like you're bending over backwards to be Zen.

© 2018 McKenna Meyers


Suzie from Carson City on March 31, 2019:

Oh my dear friend...I did not take it as criticism......this is the trouble with discussing in print....tones of voice and mannerisms are not visible.

You just sent a a chill up my back......"I seen" !!! He don't..." Saying "Happy ValenTIME'S day" !!!! Misusing the word "Conscious" for "Conscience" !!!!!

Arghhhhh! These are the things that make my ears bleed (Most especially from the mouths of (allegedly educated) individuals......When I saw your sentence about your friend where you CORRECTLY use the word WHOM....little did you know the very words Who and Whom are the words a friend of mine always always misused.....I finally, very nicely explained the accurate use of these 2 words....making sure I was clear about the subjective vs objective meanings.....She simply never could get it....why, I don;t know. But she was highly insulted. IMO, that's a serious fault on her part, so I didn't care.

There have been times I may have been corrected about a word I misused and of course, I was not only very grateful but also gracious.

I mean, are people so egotistical they prefer their friends allow them to continue to sound ignorant??

We all have pet peeves. It's not illegal.

Not to worry MzB....I love ya!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 31, 2019:

Hey, girlfriend, Paula. I didn't take it as a criticism. The example I gave was the only one I could think of offhand, but there really are sentences written in law that contain real double negatives. I hear a lot of incorrect grammar on the streets AND on TV nowadays. I have one friend a professional with a college education whom I would never correct, but I cringe when she says "I seen...."

Suzie from Carson City on March 29, 2019:

Hi Mz B......Trust me...I do not go around correcting every little mistake any Tom, Dick or Harry makes. I'm not quite that daffy. There are those I engage in conversation with quite often and hear them repeatedly making an egregious MESS of our language....using the wrong word, or in the wrong way, mispronouncing words.....that sound nothing like the actual word!...and the example you gave is not at all what I mean by "double negatives." "There was no evidence that the subject was not telling the truth." isn't a double negative.....at the end of the sentence, after the word, "subject"....it's the same as saying..."was lying" or "was being deceitful."" I get that.

I'm referring to: "I can't take no more!" DBL negative....rather than "I can't take anymore!" OK...that's enough.

I'm sure your manner of speaking is just fine and probably quite fascinating.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 29, 2019:

McKenna and Paula, about the correcting someone: I don't like it when someone corrects my colloquialisms, brogue, whatever you want to call my accent. We all have our local speech and if you move to my area, leave it be if I am grammatically correct. I have a friend from another state who does that to me. We southerners are kind of like the English in that we either don't pronounce some syllables or we kind of swallow them, One day she corrected me with it's pronounced "care' a mel". I answered, "not in this neck of the woods. It's "car' mul".

Also, I was kind of dismayed when, as a beginning legal editor, I learned that law sometimes uses double negatives when they don't want to be direct. For instance, a person brought me a document and wailed that he'd failed his lie detector test. I told him to read it again and concentrate on it. The sentence read: "There was no evidence that the subject was not telling the truth."

McKenna Meyers (author) on March 29, 2019:

Doris, as a former preschool and kindergarten teacher, I could write a whole article on things that irritate me about how parents talk to their little ones.You're right. The okay? just opens the door for disagreement. I get annoyed when parents threaten kids but never follow through on the threat. That was happening recently when I was eating dinner at a restaurant. The mother kept saying, "If you keep whining, I'm taking you out" but never did. Also, it bugs me when parents try to discuss something with kids when the kids are out of control and can't take in a thing that's being said. OK, I got these off my chest and now I feel better! Thanks for reading.

McKenna Meyers (author) on March 29, 2019:

Paula, I get in trouble with that around my house with two teenager sons. It seems a lot of teens (mine included) don't pronounce the t sound in the middle of words and make it a d sound instead so important becomes impordant. My boys laugh at it now because they hear all their friends do it. You're right, though, people take great offense when you correct them.It's better to focus on what they're saying and not how they're saying it. Take care!

Suzie from Carson City on March 28, 2019:

McKenna.....I am happy to meet you. I enjoyed your article for more than one reason. Although I'm not terribly annoyed by particular overused expressions (except for #6 ~~Hate that one!) I am hyper-sensitive to misused and/or mispronounced words. There are times, it takes all of my restraint to not display a visceral reaction. Needless to say, in all ways that individuals are known to destroy our beautiful English language, I find it difficult to be tolerant. I've also been "told off" a few times when I instinctively (and gently, I thought) pointed out someone's really poor/incorrect use of proper English when communicating. For instance? double negatives! LOL. I'm smiling at myself right now because even discussing these things that bother me, has my blood pressure up.

I've learned to have a sense of humor about it all now and just keep my proper English lessons to myself. As my son has said to me, "You know Mom, if people who were born, raised and educated here, do not mind sounding like morons from the back woods, it's their own ignorance to embrace." I may disagree with him but he has a point.

While reading your article, my mind reeled, recalling conversations I've actually had to subtly walk away from, for fear I would implode. LOL ...We all have our pet peeves. It seems we need to deal with it.

Have a relaxing evening, McKenna. Paula

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 28, 2019:

As a word person, I really enjoyed this article. May I add my favorite irritations, "for years to come." Seems like every show on HGTV or DIY has a soliloquy that ends with "they will enjoy for years to come," and now other types of TV programs are picking it up. As a former copywriter, I think that's regurgitative and unimaginative copy. Another word is "absolutely" when a simple "yes" will do. Very few things in life are absolute.

And it really irritates me when a mother gives her small child an order and then raises her voice to a questioning high pitched "okay?" I've seen total arguments that should never have occurred when a child said "no" to the "okay?" because mama then explained to the child why he should obey by ending every sentence with another "okay?" Maybe I'm just a grouch and don't know much about modern-day parenting. Okay?

McKenna Meyers (author) on February 07, 2018:

I know everyone forgives you, Dora, for saying number 5. You have so much wisdom to share and goodness in your heart that they surely overlook it.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 07, 2018:

Great insight and communication information. I want to puke at people who number 6, but then I do number 5. It's a learning process. Thanks for your valuable help.

McKenna Meyers (author) on February 07, 2018:

Threekeys, I think "jaded" and "weary" are excellent ways to describe how we feel when words are overused. When my sons were in preschool and kindergarten, it frustrated me when teachers and parents would be overly effusive with the children's art, saying, "that's so amazing...that's a masterpiece...that's so incredible." Even most of the children knew their words were meaningless. It means so much more if someone takes the time and really notices something and says, "I like how you blended the yellow and orange together to make the sun." I think we adults want the same when people communicate with us. We want something original, not just quick, overused remarks that mean nothing.

McKenna Meyers (author) on February 07, 2018:

Venkatachari, I love what you wrote about making our communication gentle and noble. Imagine what a different world we'd live in if that was our goal! I think there are so many distractions these days with cell phones, headphones, and computers that people use some of these words (look, listen) to get people's attention--but it still sounds rude.

threekeys on February 06, 2018:

The weariness of these words just means we are all ready for new replacements. I too feel jaded about the words love and compassion. We either need new defintions of these two words or have them totally replaced.

What new words would you like us to use more often than not, in our everyday conversations?

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on February 06, 2018:

A good message to people to be more careful and gentle/noble while using words during their communications with others.

The first three, the seventh one, and the last one are truly very offensive and insulting ones which should be totally avoided. Even children shouldn't be addressed with such vocabulary. Adding "please" to such kind of addressing may, sometimes, soften the tone but not always.

But, we should never use that gay word at any cost.

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