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Phrases to remove from your vocabulary

Often when posed a question, we tend to lean on phrases that are socially acceptable and expected, but in an effort to be authentic, especially with friends and family, we should be challenging ourselves to dig a little deeper.

Here are some words and phrases that I’ve been working on changing when talking and emailing/texting people:


  1. “I’m busy.” Ya, who isn’t?  We seem to wear this phrase like a badge of honour rather than owning our time.  If someone isn’t busy, we tend to judge them and what they are spending their time on, rather than asking questions and learning more about how they achieved balance in their lives.  Tom Rath speaks to this in his book Are Your Fully Charged – he says don’t  get caught in the trap of mistaking activity for real progress.  If a mouse runs on a wheel for 12 hours in a row, it will have been “very busy” yet it will have gone nowhere and achieved nothing.  Rath goes on to advise us to aim for a daily routine that allows us enough time to do what we want, work on projects that make a difference and spend time with people who matter the most to us.  If you find yourself saying “I’m busy”, what you may be really saying is “I need to do a better job of managing my time.”


  • Try replacing with – “I’ve had a productive week/month/season!” “I’m working on some interesting projects right now that are taking up a lot of my time”


  1. “Can I help you?” – while the intent is noble, the respondent may feel too shy to actually say “yes” and admit they need help. In your ask, try to be as specific as possible, making it easier for your respondent to say “yes” and accept your help.
  • Try replacing with – “can I bring over a lasagne for you later this week?”, “ what can I do today that would help with your load?”


  1. “I’m fine, how are you?” Again, while this may be the socially acceptable answer, you haven’t given your recipient any tangible information about how you are truly doing.  If you are good, tell them why.  If you are not good, this is a great time to witness as a positive influence in their lives.
  • Try replacing with – “I’m good, I’m working on a new project that is really energizing me.” Or “I’m not having one of my better days, but I’m looking forward to a fresh start tomorrow.”
  • Try replacing also with – “I’m working on such and such project, what are you working on that’s really energizing you this season?”


  1. “I have an excuse” – I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as an excuse, only choices. If you failed to deliver on something, offer up that choice as the honest response to whey you didn’t fulfil your obligations.
  • Try replacing with – “I’m late because I wanted to finish up something that was really important to me. I’m sorry about my tardiness, it won’t become a habit and I appreciate your understanding as I tended to my project.”


  1. “We should get together sometime.” – The intention of saying this is very noble, but there is no action. How often do we say this, or say “we should go have lunch” or “go for coffee sometime”, and the “sometime” never arrives?  Instead of empty promises, make good on them and start setting up dates to get together.
  • Try replacing with – “We should go for lunch, how does next Tuesday work for you?”


  1. “Always” and “never” – Absolutes are just that, absolutes. Its very difficult to guarantee absolutes in any situation (see how I did that????)
  • Try replacing with – “I often”, or “it can be difficult”, or “I will work to ensure” etc.


  1. “Very” anything….. – some people suggest using the word “very” denotes laziness.  I prefer to look at it as “opportunity to expand your vocabulary”.  The next time you catch yourself being “very excited” or “very tired” or “very happy”, challenge yourself to use some different words
  • Try replacing with – instead of “I’m very tired”, say “I’m exhausted.” Instead of “I’m very happy” try saying “I’m ecstatic”.  Instead of saying “I’m very excited” try saying “I’m thrilled.”  You get the drift…


By making small changes to the ways we answer often-asked questions, we can enrich our relationships and become more authentic with the people in our lives that matter most to us.  Do you have a phrase you’ve been working on changing in your daily vocab?  Comment below!

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