6 Phrases to remove from your vocabulary

6 Phrases to remove from your vocabulary [PMP #215]

We all have various expressions and turns of phrase that we rely on to make a point and communicate our intentions. However, in this day and age, it’s easier than ever for messages to be misconstrued and taken out of content. Or, if we’re not careful, certain words and phrases can weaken our point and undermine the message entirely.

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When you say “I don’t have time” you're using it as a crutch to avoid the truth which is to say “That’s not important to me right now” but we just don't want to admit it.Click To Tweet

Whether you’re writing an email or talking in person, here are a few phrases and words I’ve tried to remove from my vocabulary, that you should as well:

“Not bad”

We've all been guilty of this one…

“How are you?”

“Not bad”

Why is the measure of how you’re doing based on how “bad” you currently feel? It’s a terrible way to describe how you feel! But we use this phrase as if to say “It could be worse” which is a very pessimistic way of thinking.

By removing this phrase from your vocabulary, you’ll force yourself to start assessing things through a more positive lens.

Good, busy…

Another phrase I can’t stand when asked how we’re doing is “Good, busy”.

“Busy” is not good. Busy implies that you have too much work to do. Busy implies that you’re overwhelmed. Busy implies that you’re not on top of things or that you’re disorganised. Even if you are genuinely busy, don’t kid yourself into thinking this is a good thing. Some people like to wear “Busyness” as a badge of honour because it implies that they’re important.

When people ask me “How are you? Are you busy?”, I usually reply with something like “No, work is steady and I’m happy with the pace right now”. I don’t say this because I don’t have enough work. It’s that I have everything under control and I’m on top of everything.

Again, try and remove this phrase from your vocabulary and you’ll be amazed at how it changes your outlook. And if you feel like you want to say that you’re “busy” maybe you need to get things more under control.

I don't have time

I don’t like this phrase because it’s a lazy way of thinking. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and if all of a sudden you had to drop what you’re doing to deal with an emergency, you’d find the time.

But we say “I don’t have time” because it’s a verbal crutch we can lean on when what we really mean is “That’s not important to me right now” but we don't want to admit it.

If people request something of me that I don’t want to do, I say: “I’m prioritising other projects right now”. Because this is the truth. I have the time, and it’s valuable, which is why I’m prioritising my paying clients.

Remove this phrase from your vocabulary and you’ll find you need to be more honest with your excuses.


Using the word “just” is fine if you’re saying “I just finished”. But where you need to be careful is when you say something like “Just following up…”.

I used to do this a lot and came to realise that by adding the word “just” it weakens your statement and implies that you’re in the wrong. It’s like saying “Sorry to bother you, I’m only following up”. When really, following up is fine, but we add the word “just” to be less annoying.

This was a tough habit to break but now, my emails feel more assertive and direct.

At this point in time

This is another one I used to use a lot and thought was fine.

When I get emails from people reaching out to be a guest on my podcast, I’d say “I’m not looking for guests at this time”. The trouble is, this is kicking the can down the road and gives the other person permission to say “Okay, I’ll follow up in a few months”.

Really what I needed to say was something more assertive like “Thanks, but this isn’t the right fit for me.”

Does that make sense?

This is another one I used to use a lot that I thought was harmless.

I’d say to clients on a call or in an email, “Does that make sense?”. And while I’ve never been called out on this, I feel it puts the other person in a position where they need to admit that they don’t understand which can be uncomfortable. And because my job is about helping people to understand things, I don’t want them to feel embarrassed about asking for help.

Instead, it would be better to say “Let me know if you have any questions about that”. This allows for the conversation to continue without putting the other person in an uncomfortable position.

I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones here… If there are any phrases you recommend avoiding using, let me know in the comments below!