Lazy words: Ditch these turn-off words | Effective communication skills training

A blog by Jean M. Schmith

Ditch these lazy words that are simply a turn-off to any listener.

(You'll be glad you did.)

In his professional communication training online, communication coach Dan O'Connor talks frequently in terms of danger and power phrases--danger phrases being words to avoid because they are weak and ineffective and sometimes obnoxious to the listener.  And then he gives you power phrases as replacement words--strong, effective words.  The words/phrases below are actually more what one might call lazy words--such as saying uuuuummmmmm (a lazy SOUND more than a lazy word) all the time, while pausing to think of what to say next.  (And of course the ever-present "sort of" that news commentators seem to think is helpful--)  So, here they are--a handful of lazy words (and/or phrases) that are a turn-off to the listener.  If you use these, please consider purging them from your verbal repertoire because they damage your message and cause the listener to be distracted.

"Look"  How obnoxious is it to have someone continually begin speaking with "look"?  Very.  It's rather like saying--"Hey, listen up!  You haven't been paying attention to the very important points I'm making."  It prompts the speaker to think "No you look.  I don't like your arrogance and your condescension when you speak to me."  Rather than beginning with something such as "have you considered," the speaker is being blunt and demanding with his/her "look!"  If you are someone who begins speaking with "look," please consider removing that word and replacing it with--with--Nothing.  When you have something to say, just say it, and you'll be better received than when you start out with "look."

"You know?--more generally mumbled as 'ya know'" How tiresome is hearing "ya know?" at the end of every second sentence when someone is speaking.  Don't you want to yell "YES I KNOW, SO STOP ASKING ME!"  Or the more confrontational person just might be thinking "NO, I DON'T KNOW, SO TELL ME ONE MORE FRIGGIN' TIME!"  If you want to know if you've been heard, you might try "Would you agree with that?"  Or "How would you phrase that?"  Or some other original question.  If you are someone who ends each and every thought with "Ya know?" please consider removing that phrase and replacing it with--with--Nothing. Or if you need to know if you were understood, use any one of a thousand questions asking for confirmation or clarity.  Just don't end every thought with "ya know."

"Believe me"  This is a filler phrase, much like uuuuuummmmmm.  It can easily be over-used and when the listener hears it over and over, he/she begins to wonder if the speaker is to be believed.  "Believe me" defeats the purpose of the speaker, unless the purpose is to stall, while thinking what to say next.  Savvy communicators don't need to keep repeating this, and certainly honest people don't need to use it at all.  Once again, if you find yourself using this before or after a thought--try hard to eliminate the phrase from your speech.

"You want to know the truth?"  My personal favorite.  Let's, see--what kind of self-talk does this inspire in the listener?  We all know the answer to that.  "No, I want you to lie to me!  Come on, lie to me!"  This is perhaps one of the most self-defeating and senseless of the lazy words/phrases.  It's a hollow filler question and if you use it--consign it to the junk heap.  Please.  It's even worse, on the lazy-scale, than "believe me."  Of course, that's a matter of opinion.  :) :)

There are many more lazy words/phrases, and if you'd like Dan to add your personal favorite to this short starter-list, just email him at [email protected] with "lazy word" in the subject line.  Before you know it, we'll rid the world of lazy speech, one word and speaker at a time!

For more effective communication tips from communication sills coach Dan O'Connor, check out the course offerings on his website 

If you'd like Dan to come into your office or organization or government agency, as a trainer or keynote speaker, go to    And if you'd like to learn more from Dan's free resources and premium materials, go to the same place and check them out.