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

Updated on April 15, 2018
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Our lives are made infinitely richer by our relationships. I love finding ways to strengthen them at home, at work, and with friends.

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. | Source

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. | Source

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! | Source

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 McKenna Meyers


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      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        12 months ago from Bend, OR

        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.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        12 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        12 months ago from Bend, OR

        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.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        12 months ago from Bend, OR

        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.

      • profile image


        12 months ago

        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 profile image

        Venkatachari M 

        12 months ago from Hyderabad, India

        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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