Things You Should Never Say If You Want To Be Taken Seriously

Want to be taken seriously at work and in life? Cut these 17 phrases from your vocabulary. They make you sound insecure, unprofessional, and downright difficult to work with. We’ll explore each one in depth, but the bottom line is this: if you wouldn’t say it in a job interview, don’t say it in everyday conversation.

1. “I’m not an expert or anything, but…”

If you preface your opinion with a disclaimer, people will believe you. Own your knowledge and state your thoughts directly, Forbes suggests. If you’re truly not qualified to weigh in, simply don’t. Undermining your own credibility is a surefire way to lose respect. Speak with confidence about what you do know, and have the humility to admit when something is outside your wheelhouse.

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2. “I didn’t have time to prepare, so I’ll just wing it.”

Nothing says “I don’t take this seriously” like showing up unprepared. Whether it’s a meeting, presentation, or interview, winging it sends the message that you couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. If you want people to value your contributions, demonstrate that you value their time by doing your homework and bringing your A-game. Preparation is the foundation of professionalism.

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3. “I hate to be the one to say this, but…”

No, you don’t. You’re relishing the chance to criticize or gossip under the guise of reluctance. If you truly hated to say it, you’d keep it to yourself. This phrase is a transparent attempt to distance yourself from your own words while still getting to voice them. If you have a critique, own it directly and constructively, without the disingenuous preamble.

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4. “I’m sorry, but…” (when you’re not actually sorry)

Apologies should be genuine, not rhetorical devices to soften a blow. If you’re not actually remorseful, don’t say you are. Using an insincere apology to preface a criticism or request just makes you seem passive-aggressive and manipulative. Be direct and own your words without the fake contrition. People respect honesty, not empty platitudes.

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5. “I’m not trying to be difficult, but…”

You may not be trying, but you’re succeeding. This phrase is a textbook example of being difficult while claiming not to be. If you have a concern or disagreement, voice it professionally without the self-serving disclaimer. Claiming to not be difficult while being difficult just makes you seem delusional or disingenuous. Own your opinions without the cheap preemptive defense.

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6. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but…”

Then don’t. Interrupting is rude, period. If you have something to say, wait your turn. Prefacing your interjection with a disclaimer doesn’t make it less disruptive, it just makes you seem self-aware enough to know better. If you constantly find yourself interrupting, work on your impulse control and active listening skills. Show respect by letting people finish their thoughts.

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7. “I’m not here to make friends.”

You may not be there to make friends, but you are there to be a team player, BetterUp points out. This phrase makes you sound adversarial and difficult to work with (or like you’re auditioning for a bad reality TV show). No one’s asking you to be BFFs with your colleagues, but you do need to be friendly, cooperative, and supportive. Declaring that you’re not there to make friends just makes you seem insecure and standoffish. Focus on being professional and personable.

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8. “I’m just being honest.”

Honesty without tact is cruelty. This phrase is often used to justify being blunt or hurtful under the guise of truthfulness. But there’s a difference between being honest and being insensitive. You can be direct and authentic without being brutal. Consider your audience and choose your words carefully. Aim to be honest and kind, not just one or the other.

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9. “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but…”

Yes, you are. Whatever follows this disclaimer is guaranteed to be offensive. If you have to preface your statement with a denial of bigotry, chances are you should just keep it to yourself. There’s no “but” that will magically make a prejudiced remark acceptable. Examine your biases and work on being more inclusive and open-minded.

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10. “I’m just playing devil’s advocate.”

No, you’re being contrarian and argumentative. Playing devil’s advocate is a debate tactic, not a conversational style. Constantly taking the opposing view just for the sake of it is tiresome and unproductive. If you genuinely disagree with something, say so directly and explain why. But don’t argue just for the sake of arguing. It’s okay to concede a point or agree with people sometimes.

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11. “I’m not trying to brag, but…”

You are, though. False modesty is still boastful, just in a more grating way. If you’ve accomplished something worth mentioning, share it directly without the humblebrag disclaimer. And if it’s not relevant to the conversation, don’t mention it at all. Confidence is attractive, but forced self-deprecation just comes across as insincere and attention-seeking. Own your achievements without apology.

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12. “I’m not a morning person.”

No one cares. We all have to show up and be functional adults, regardless of our chronotype. Constantly announcing your distaste for mornings just makes you seem immature and unprofessional. If you’re not at your best in the early hours, go to bed earlier or find strategies to cope. But don’t expect special treatment or use it as an excuse for grumpiness or laziness.

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13. “I’m too old/young for this.”

Age is not an excuse for disengagement, closed-mindedness, or resistance to change. Whether you’re an old dog hesitant to learn new tricks or a young pup bristling at established practices, constantly referencing your age just makes you seem stubborn and inflexible. Focus on bringing your unique perspective and skills to the table, regardless of your birth year. Adaptability and openness are valuable at any life stage.

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14. “I’m not good with technology.”

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In today’s world, digital illiteracy is not an option. Regardless of your age or industry, you need a basic level of tech-savvy to stay relevant and competitive. Constantly declaring your ineptitude with computers or software just makes you seem out-of-touch and unwilling to learn. Take classes, watch tutorials, or ask for help. But don’t wear your tech struggles as a badge of honor. It’s a fixable skill gap, not a personality trait.

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15. “I’m not a people person.”

Then why are you here? Nearly every job involves working with other people in some capacity. Declaring your dislike for human interaction just makes you seem antisocial and difficult to collaborate with. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be professional, but you do need to be able to communicate, cooperate, and build relationships. If you struggle with social skills, work on them. But don’t use introversion as an excuse to be standoffish or uncooperative.

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16. “I’m just telling it like it is.”

No, you’re being rude and abrasive. Brutal honesty is still brutal, even if it’s honest. This phrase is often used to justify being blunt, critical, or insensitive under the guise of truth-telling. But there’s a difference between being direct and being tactless. You can communicate hard truths with respect and diplomacy. Aim to tell it like it is while still being professional and considerate of other people’s feelings.

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17. “I’m not good with names.”

Then get better. Remembering names is a learnable skill, not an innate gift. Constantly forgetting or mispronouncing someone’s name sends the message that you don’t value them as an individual. Try to learn and use people’s names correctly. It’s a basic sign of respect and professionalism. If you struggle, use memory tricks or write names down. But don’t broadcast your shortcoming as if it’s unchangeable.

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Josh grew up in Connecticut and thought he could never be happier away from big bodies of water until he moved to Minneapolis and fell in love with it. He writes full-time, with his lifestyle content being published in the likes of Men's Health, Business Insider, and many more. When he's not writing, he likes running (but not enough to train for a marathon even though his buddy won't stop asking him).