“To Be Honest”
To be honest, it seems that we are all addicted to using phrases such as “to be honest”. Lately, I seem to hear this phrase almost daily. Whether it’s a client relating a story to me or a news item on television, this overused phrase seems to be ubiquitous. I even annoy myself when I catch myself saying it. It did make me wonder however why we tend to flower our language with unnecessary extra words.
Common phrases such as “I’m just saying” or “don’t take this the wrong way” And “I hear what you’re saying but” Are used with regularity. The fact that they are so commonly used means that they lose their meaning. They become superfluous to our actual message. I decided to Google more information on this topic and came across an interesting article written by Elizabeth Bernstein.
She refers to the idea that we use these extraneous phrases in order to deliver an ambiguous message. For example: “I want to say that your new haircut looks fabulous”. The speaker of this message wants to say that the new haircut looks great, but that this does not tell us the true intent of what the speaker really thinks about the new haircut. The message is therefore unclear.
According to James Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department of the University of Texas at Austin, these phrases serve to formalise conversations and allow us to hide our true selves. He believes that these sayings frequently signal untruths. They serve as great shock absorbers for the message being delivered. the article goes on to say that some people refer to these phrases as “tee-ups”. This is quite a good description when you think about what you do with the golf ball. He put it on a peg at the tee, tee it up, then give it a giant wallop.
These phrases are gaining momentum especially due to social media interactions. People are very aware of how they present themselves and using these phrases can almost be seen as a ‘verbal body language’ to help position the message.When you become more aware of people using these phrases, they can start to become annoying. I am aware, more so now, of the language that I use and I try where possible to avoid these commonly used phrases. Who wants to be conventional right?
These phrases are also used when someone feels out of their comfort zone, as it serves to keep the conversation flowing and the speaker to present themselves as knowledgeable. Tee-ups come across better than “ums” and “aahs”. Minimising our use of these phrases forces us to focus more on the message and to have more clarity when communicating. Eliminating these phrases automatically forces you to find other more productive ways of expressing yourself.
Don’t take this the wrong way but I am just saying that these phrases will be difficult to give up, if I’m honest 🙂