Stop Using These Arrogant Phrases at Work

It’s good to appear confident and knowledgeable at work, but sometimes we may say things that we think emphasize our value as employees but actually give the impression that we’re pretentious or insecure.

Of course, a lot depends on your tone, context, and particular situation, but there are certain phrases that are almost always the wrong choice in the workplace. Here’s what you need to know.

Avoid using these arrogant phrases at work.

According to Katherine Petras and Ross Petras, authors of You’re Talking Wrong and hosts of the NPR podcast of the same name, there’s a fine line between a confident voice and an arrogant voice at work.

Using a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they compiled a list of phrases that they say tend to sound arrogant and should be avoided at work most of the time:

  1. “I don’t want to brag, but…” “Fine, don’t brag then.”
  2. “I already knew that…” (or “Don’t everyone know that?”) – Everyone’s life experience is different, so no.
  3. “I’m pretty sure that…” – It’s usually better to say that you don’t know something than to try to guess or invent something.
  4. “No offense, but… ” These words won’t soften what’s to come.
  5. Overuse of “I” (or “me”) is likely not just about you.
  6. – Oh, I’m just kidding! This passive-aggressive way of insulting someone does not give you the right to say whatever you want. See also: “No offense, but…”
  7. “You may not know this, but…” – Just share information without an offensive disclaimer.
  8. – If I were you, I would … – Did someone specifically ask you, what would you do in their place? If not, then leave this phrase.

More effective ways to communicate at work

Instead of using the above phrases, the Petras recommend the following general approaches to communication in the workplace:

  • Genuinely listen to your colleagues and consider their points of view rather than assuming or claiming that you are always right. And don’t interrupt them when they’re talking.
  • Get out of the habit of just talking because you think it makes you knowledgeable or confident. Your contribution to the conversation will have more impact if you actually add something new or useful.
  • Ask other people about their experiences rather than telling everything about yourself and yours. The same goes for opinions: just because you have them doesn’t mean you should share them.
  • Use more meaningful terms like “we” and “our” instead of “I”, “me” or “mine” to at least make it sound like you’re a team player.


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