by Morey Stettner
Essentially, I'm a patient guy. But nothing makes me lose patience more than people who say, "Essentially."
When we waste words or engage in speech tics, we risk sounding unctuous or insincere. Other needless words I loathe include "basically" and "totally." They add nothing and call into question whatever you say next.
These words can carry implicit messages that irritate others. Telling someone "basically" is like saying, "I'm going to translate this into simple language because you're not bright."
Maybe it's my upbringing. I grew up in Los Angeles at the height of the Valley Girl craze. People trying to sound hip would pepper their remarks with "I'm, like, hungry" and "You're totally right."
Today's off-putting phrases are more insidious. In response to your thanks, for example, someone replies, "No worries." Who said anything about worrying?
You ask for information and a colleague responds, "As far as I know"? By hedging, your co-worker conveys doubt.
You ask someone for a favor and you hear, "I don't see why not." More confident statements such as "Yes, I'll do that for you" or "Consider it done" sound more reassuring.
Clear communication is hard enough given that many people exhibit poor listening habits. But if you lace your speech with distracting tics and filler words, you raise the odds of misunderstanding.
The solution is to rethink your word choice. A few years ago, I spoke to a manager who admitted that he used the phrase "as I said before" too often. Every time he said it, he noticed it made others sigh or grimace.
He didn't want to come across as petulant, so he replaced it with, "I know we've discussed this, but something still concerns me." This helped him connect with people rather than drive them away.