4 Everyday Phrases That Destroy Your Charisma  

Oprah Winfrey

In the past, I've spoken a lot about things to do in order to become more charismatic and persuasive. But the truth is - far more common are phrases that you currently have in your vocabulary that are killing your charisma, that are making you far less persuasive, and that are getting people to fight with you. After watching a video on YouTube by Charlie Houpert on charismatic phrases, I was inspired to write this article. What I want to do is talk about four of those most common phrases and give you things that you can substitute so that - you're just getting rid of the bad stuff in order to let your natural charisma shine through.


| Phrase 1 |

“No Problem” —> “Happy To Help”

The first one of these is not the worst but it is the most common, and it's really a missed opportunity. So just imagine that you have a friend who is flying in from out of town, and she asks you if you can pick her up at the airport. And like a good friend, you say yes. You drive down to the airport, she gets in your car and she says, “Thank you,” to which you replied, like many of us do: "No problem."  

This is a huge, huge missed opportunity because what you're saying when you say, "No problem," to someone that you've just done a favor for, is that the reason that you did it isn't because you value her friendship, or because you wanted to see her, but because it wasn't a huge cost to you. It kind of implies that if it had been a huge cost you might not be there to pick her up in the first place.

Much stronger than this is – “Happy to help.” And in this case, you might want to say, "Hey! You're a great friend. It’s great to see you and I’m happy to help." If you do this, you are building value around the relationship that you have and not just insisting, "Well, I'm only here because I was in the area."

Now, there are situations in your life where you hold the door for a stranger where they say, "Thank you," and you might say, "No problem." Sure, that is not a big deal. This is reserved more for those times when you genuinely do a favor; you don't want to cut it down. You want to use it as a chance to really reinforce the relationship that you have.


| Phrase 2 |

“You Messed Up” —> “I Think There May Be A Mistake”

I was at a restaurant just picking up food and there was a guy in there that was speaking to a waiter in an aggravated tone.  As I was on my way out, I heard him say, "You screwed up my bill!" And I walked out of the restaurant and just grated – one, because it bothers me when people speak to a waiter in a different tone compared to someone who is not a waiter who they don’t have power over. But two, that phrase in and of itself is immediately casting blame.

When you say, “You messed up” or “You screwed up,” you are going to get that other person to dig in their heels harder and fight you because what you're implying is that they are somehow wrong. Now this waiter has no power in this dynamic because it's so asymmetrical, he did go along with it as the ‘customer is always right’. But if you do this in your life with friends and family, you're just inviting resistance. Much more powerful is to say something like this –  "Hey. I think there may be a mistake on my bill. Could you help me figure it out?"

Now this is powerful for two reasons:

  • First - You're using the passive voice; you're not trying to say that waiter caused the problem on purpose. And in fact, he might not have made the mistake; it could have been the cashier, or the kitchen. And there have also been times, I know in my life and probably in yours, where you've been certain that somebody screwed something up, you checked it three times, you showed it to them and then they pointed out how you were wrong in the first place and you just look like an idiot. So by saying, "I think there may be a mistake," you're not focusing on who is to blame; you're just focusing on, "I want to fix this."

  • Second – The ending phrase: “Could you please help me figure this out?” That puts you on the same team and actually sets up a goal. When you say - “You messed this up”, there's no way to respond to that other than going, "Okay ..." and having the other person just feeling bad and start defending themselves. When you say, "Can you help me get to the bottom of this?" Now you're both trying to correct a mistake, you're moving in the right direction, and you're not going to face as much resistance. So substitute that one in.

| Phrase 3 |

Preemptive Disqualification

This is one that I do all the time, and it's the preemptive disqualification. This is the person who starts a speech off by going, "I haven't had a ton of time to prepare this, so here we go," or the person who tells the story and says, "I know this isn't something you're really interested in but ..." And then they tell the story. Or in my case, right before I'm about to play a song on the piano, because it's something that I've been newly learning, I say, "I'm not that good, but here it goes…"

A lot of times when there's something that's ambiguous, a story that's ‘okay’, a song that is sung ‘average’ - what people are going to use to decide if it's good or bad is the frame that is put around it. And when you frame it as, "This is not interesting”, “I haven't spent a lot of time on this”, “I'm not that good", you are telling people to interpret everything that comes after this as not very good.

What people are going to use to decide if it’s good or bad is the frame that is put around it.

If you just keep your mouth shut, tell the story, give the speech, sing the song - you're at least not putting any frame. And in fact, you can actually do yourself a big favor by putting an unbiased, honest frame on there in advance. For example, you might not think that you're the most talented at something, but you can still say, "Hey, this is a topic that is really relevant,” or “This is a story that might interest you," or, "This is a song that I think you'll recognize." By saying that you immediately capture people's attention, they're paying more attention, they think it relates to them, and they're more likely to view what you do in a positive light.


| Phrase 4 |

Using Negative Absolutes

This is one that happens when you are arguing and often the times right before you blow it and create a big fight. That's when you say, "You always ..." or "You never ..." and then something negative. Now, there's no problem when you say, "Hey, you always are there for me," or, "You have never let me down." People aren't going to argue and say, "Actually, you know there was that one time where I did let you down." It's only when you follow it up with something negative.

Now I am going to contradict myself here in a second, but it's almost always the case in the world that something is not always, it's not never, there's some shade of sometimes going on. And when you say, "You always do this," not only is that person on the back foot but now they are correct and you are incorrect because you've just stated something that isn't factually true most of the time.

Much better, when you feel like someone has done something to upset you and you feel like they always do it, or you feel like they never do it, is to say, "When you _____, I feel _____." So you might say,

-       "When you say that my writing isn't very good, I feel like I shouldn't continue to pursue my dream of being a blogger."

-       "When you say that I do not listen to you, it makes me feel like you don't really value our friendship."

-       “When you say that I am not there for you, I feel you don’t know how much I care for you.

 Whatever it is that is occurring + then how you feel about it.

This is something that can't be disputed because they just did that thing and you're saying, "When this happens ..." and then your feeling, which again, is not something that's up for dispute. You can feel however you want. So you're at least starting this discussion from a place of honesty and truth and then you can work on behavior change rather than getting into an argument.

In Conclusion

Here are the 4 phrases and what to say instead:

1. “No Problem” —> “Happy To Help.”

2. “You Screwed Up” —> “I Think There May Be A Mistake”

3. “I Know I’m Not That Good,…” —> “I Think You’ll Like This,…”

4. “You Always/Never” —> “I Feel _____ When You _____“

So I hope this has helped you take four things that you may be doing in your life and to substitute them with things that will make you more persuasive and charismatic.

Please leave a comment below letting me know what you found useful and how you plan on incorporating that into your life! :)