Like all respectable professionals, we take pains to deliver detail-oriented, quality work to our clients. We conduct ourselves with propriety and seek to exude competence. But sometimes, without realizing it, we discredit ourselves through our unconscious idiosyncrasies.
Here are a few common examples:
- Overstating. In an effort to make a point, we often exaggerate by saying things like “everyone in the industry does that.” Really? Everyone? It would be more accurate to say “a lot of people in the industry do that,” but until we have interviewed everyone, we would do well not to round up. When we overstate, people may doubt the accuracy of our claims.
- Throwing the competition under the bus. Through the course of getting to know your practice, you will likely have to answer the question, “how are you different from your competition?” The simplest reply often disparages your competitor in some way and makes you look like the superior choice. Try to paint an objective picture instead. When we throw the competition under the bus, people may question our character.
- Citing a faux study. "They did a study…" These four words are often synonymous with sloppy research. Just because you saw a TED talk on a topic doesn’t mean you have the facts straight. If you’re going to reference scientific research, at least mention the source (e.g., "MIT researchers conducted a study back in 1994.”) When we reference faux studies, people may wonder if the rest of what we say is also based on urban legend.
- Diluting your speech. Once upon a time, it was considered the lexicon of valley girls. Now, everyone peppers their sentences with the extraneous “like” and "you know.” However, these superfluous words harken back to an informality best left in high school. When we dilute our speech, people may second-guess our gravitas.
- Understanding when not to say “literally.” The word “literally” has become akin to a verbal underline. Its improper use is so commonplace that it often slips into our speaking unconsciously. But in spite of your boss’ condescending remark, nothing he did made you so angry that you could literally kill him right now. Unless, of course, you plan to. Either you meant to say “virtually,” or you have serious self-control issues. So, show some discernment when using the word “literally,” especially when striking up a conversation with someone new, because the misused word could result in a poor first impression.
It can take years to build a respectable reputation, but it only takes a moment to lose credibility. Avoid these five credibility-killers so that your clients, prospects, referral sources, and colleagues continue to take you seriously.
Authored by David Ackert