3 Ways You Sound Stupid at Work

BY Courtney Huckabay
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Could a silly, often-​used turn of phrase make you sound stupid at work? Travis Bradberry says it can. You can make it even worse by saying more than one of these one-​liners. In a post for Ladders​.com, he rattles off 10 terrible quotes that smart people never espouse. I'm sharing a few here that we all probably say without even thinking. And that's the trouble. Commit to being thoughtful and intentional about your inter-​office interactions. You might be losing cred around the office as you speak.

3 Ways You Sound Stupid at Work

This may be a silly idea/I’m going to ask a stupid question”

"These overly passive phrases instantly erode your credibility," Bradberry explains. "Even if you follow these phrases with a great idea, they suggest that you lack confidence, which makes the people you’re speaking to lose confidence in you. If you really don’t know something, say, 'I don’t have that information right now, but I’ll find out and get right back to you.'”

Try saying, "I've got an idea!" instead. And then don't even bother pre-​loading your question. Just ask the question! That way you won't sound stupid when proposing your idea.

That’s not in my job description”

"If your boss asks you to do something that you feel is inappropriate for your position (as opposed to morally or ethically inappropriate), the best move is to complete the task eagerly," Bradberry writes. "Later, schedule a conversation with your boss to discuss your role in the company and whether your job description needs an update. This ensures that you avoid looking petty. It also enables you and your boss to develop a long-​term understanding of what you should and shouldn’t be doing."

Another way to phrase this method of sounding stupid at work is: "That's not my job." Stop and think about how it could be your job. Maybe your manager is thinking of promoting you or moving you to a new team, and therefore, is testing the waters. Completing a task outside your normal realm opens up a discussion with your supervisor at the very least — especially if you complete it and hate it. Let leadership know you are not interested in whatever test they were running on you.

I can’t”

"Saying I can’t suggests that you’re not willing to do what it takes to get the job done. If you really can’t do something because you truly lack the necessary skills, you need to offer an alternative solution. For example, instead of saying 'I can’t stay late tonight,' say 'I can come in early tomorrow morning. Will that work?' Instead of 'I can’t run those numbers,' say 'I don’t yet know how to run that type of analysis. Is there someone who can show me so that I can do it on my own next time?'”

Try some of these alternative sayings out anytime you catch yourself thinking inside your head: "I can't," or "That doesn't work for me." You may think you're being honest about your abilities, but really, you just sound stupid.