Junk phrases take up communication space but add nothing to the message. The speaker’s goal is to persuade. But these condescending phrases are likely to repel the listener, and repeated use within a short time only aggravates the situation.
Junk phrases are a demand for attention when the message may not be important or credible. Using one telegraphs the speaker’s view that the listeners are so dumb, they need to be told to concentrate.
Listen Up, Buddy
Here are five familiar junk phrases that could label you as unpleasant if not downright dishonest.
1. Let Me Be Clear
Translation: My argument is full of holes, but I want you to think otherwise. Or: I’m just going to keep repeating myself. Why do people feel the need to begin any statement with these words? It suggests that previous statements were unclear, and this one may be no better.
2. Make No Mistake
Translation: Forget your own wrong opinion. I might be the one making a mistake, but I want you to believe me anyway.
3. Mark My Words
Translation: You’re too stupid to absorb my pearls of wisdom, so I have to exhort you to pay attention.
4. That’s a Good Question
Translation: I need to stall to come up with an answer. Meanwhile, I’ll say something to flatter the questioner.
Translation: I’m talking here, and I’m the most important voice in the room. Stop thinking about the best opening for Wordle.
When You’re on the Receiving End of Junk Phrases
When you hear junk phrases, do you struggle not to roll your eyes in reaction? As a newbie lawyer, I was taught that when a witness starts a statement with “To tell the truth” or “Honestly,” they are almost surely lying. Those junk phrases were a signal not to believe the speaker.
Yet, when lawyers want to emphasize the righteousness of their argument, they use superfluous junk phrases that alienate the listener from the get-go. Whether speaking to clients, opponents, a judge or jury, avoid these unnatural opening phrases.
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