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These Junk Phrases Could Undermine Your Credibility

By Theda C. Snyder

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.

5. Look/Listen

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.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Amazon.com. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at SnyderMediations.com and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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