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Three Poisonous Words That Kill Your Credibility

I hear these three appalling words every day.

Usually from people trying to impress, and make a fast connection. They resort to these three words to attempt to show authenticity. It fails every time. It backfires. Whatever you do, never say this phrase – ever:

“To be honest….”

Followed by those other two close relatives, “To tell you the truth…” or… “I won’t lie to you…..”

Eradicate them from your vocabulary. Send them to never-never land. Erase them from your memory. Refuse to ever let these toxic phrases pass your lips again.

My reaction on hearing these words is simply this: “Oh, so you have been lying to me all the time then?” Or, “Good, so at long last you are going to stop being dishonest. I take it all you have already said was just pure lies and crap.”

Okay. Calm down. I know those of you who use these phrases are growling that you’re only trying to preface a statement you believe is super candid. It’s a mini drum roll to a profound truth, often bravely exhibiting vulnerability. I get that. Fair enough. I do actually forgive those who say it, instantly.

Nevertheless, here’s my point. Don’t say it. It’s just not helpful.

Just speak candidly. Don’t bother setting up the profound insight. Just say it. Try these for the preface if you really, really need one: “To be absolutely frank…”, “To be brutally blunt…”, or even this twist ”If I were to be absolutely honest with myself….”.  Still not ideal, but better than the alternatives.

And if you hear those you care about saying ‘To be honest’ or one of its nasty variants, and you have the ability to counsel them to kapow this habit once and for all, then please do.

I won’t lie to you – it would make a grumpy old PR guy very happy.

And that’s the truth.

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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