20 Words and Phrases Smart People Don’t Use
If you’re smart, or at least want to sound intelligent, remember that some things are better left unsaid.
“You look tired!”
You may be trying to be sympathetic, but pointing out that someone looks tired is just another way of saying “Wow, you look like crap!” Nobody wants to hear it, and saying it just makes you sound insensitive (and even flat-out rude). The same goes for “Did you lose weight?” Even if it’s the truth, you’re basically pointing out to the person that you noticed how fat they used to be. Bad idea! In both cases, a sincere “How are you?” is better. Someone who’s legitimately tired can talk about the new baby or puppy that’s keeping them up all night, if they want to; someone who’s lost weight can say “I feel great since I lost 20 pounds!” Either way, you’re letting the person you’re speaking with direct the conversation, so you’re less likely to step on their toes.
“I utilized my phone.”
Nope, you just used it. Spouting a 50-cent word when a 10-center will do doesn’t make you sound smarter. It makes you sound like you’re trying too hard. Stick to clear, simple terms and you’ll give the impression that you know what you’re talking about. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to improve your vocabulary—as long as you keep your speeches short and sweet. You can utilize these 11 tips that will improve your vocabulary in just one day.
Especially in the workplace, this one’s an indicator that you lack either know-how, motivation, or both. “I’ll try” gives off the same vibe: Why limit yourself to trying, when you should be doing? So if you’re asked to do something unfamiliar or intimidating, don’t give up before you’ve even started. A smart person wouldn’t! She’d figure it out, even if she needed help to do so. There’s no shame in asking for assistance so you can get something done, and done right.
“I gave her my best advise.”
You can advise someone, but you can’t give advise—only advice. Watch out for false friends like these, which can make you sound less smart than you really are. Some common trip-ups include adverse vs. averse (the first one usually means unfavorable, as in “adverse market conditions”; the second one means feeling opposed, such as “I am averse to giving anyone unsolicited advice”); continuously vs. continually (without ever stopping vs. repeatedly); and farther vs. further (the first one is about physical distance, while the second is about figurative distance). Our best advice, take a look at these 70 words and phrases you’ve been using all wrong.
“Any other mommies feel this way?”
If you want to sound like a smart adult, don’t talk like a little kid! Save the baby talk for your actual baby. Referring to yourself or anyone else as “mommy,” “daddy,” or “honey bunny” should be reserved for family members, at home. And yes, that includes calling your pets “fur babies.” Love them and be proud of them, of course, but unless you’re at the dog park or pet store with fellow animal lovers, stick with grown-up words.
“That’s not fair.”
Speaking of baby talk: Crying foul over something you feel is unfair can very easily make you sound immature or whiny, not smart. Standing up to real injustice is smart and admirable. But your tone matters. Try something like, “I think it would be more equitable if we did it this way.” And be sure to propose a solution, instead of just fussing and foot-stomping.
Saying “whatever” or “I don’t care,” even in a pleasant tone, makes you sound less than smart because it implies that you don’t have any thoughts at all. Nothing intelligent about that! Even if you’re just trying to go with the flow, you can still contribute to the discussion. If you have an opinion, share it politely. If you truly aren’t sure about something, ask questions and seek more information until you can give a thoughtful, useful response.
“We’ve always done it this way.”
Smart people are open to new ideas and suggestions. Sticking to a method or process just because it’s familiar makes you look more stubborn and close-minded than smart. Whether you’re at work, a volunteer organization, or your child’s school, it’s wise to be willing to listen when someone presents an opportunity for improvement. They just might be right! Smart people also don’t say the 10 most annoying phrases in the English language.
“It’s not my fault!”
Just like saying “it’s not fair,” announcing you couldn’t possibly be wrong or at fault ends up making you sound defensive and immature. Similarly, claiming “that’s not my job” gives the impression that you’re not a team player. In the workplace, if there’s a problem, don’t back away and avoid blame. Even if the issue really isn’t your fault or your job, you’ll look much smarter if you pitch in and help.
“It needs to be perfect.”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting something to be the best it can be, of course. But there does come a point when it’s smarter to just acknowledge that nothing is perfect and that you have limitations. In fact, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that admitting that you’re not perfect, and that there are still things you need to learn, is actually a sign of intelligence. Rather than driving yourself crazy trying to attain perfection, there’s something to be said for knowing when to move on and focusing instead on trying to improve in the future.