Avoid These 4 Phrases That Make You Sound “Fake and Unprofessional” – How Successful People Communicate

With over 300 billion emails sent every daythe average professional receives 121 emails per day. So when it comes to communicating with bosses and colleagues, word choice and tone matter a lot.

Authenticity in the language can help strengthen bonds and mutual respect. Using words and phrases that sound insincere — despite your best intentions — can not only cause your email to go unanswered, but also present a missed opportunity to build a positive relationship.

As a leadership coach and expert in public speaking, here are four boring phrases that I think can make you look like an aggressive, fake, and unprofessional passive:

1. “I don’t know if you saw my last email…”

According to a Adobe consumer email survey25% of respondents cited it as the most annoying phrase people use in work emails, followed by “by my last email”.

Tracking unanswered emails can be tricky. While it’s possible that the other person missed your email (i.e. it went to spam or got buried), it’s more common that they did to see him. However, they may have really forgotten about it, or it was such a low priority that they ignored it altogether.

It’s normal to say that you follow. But keep your email short and include a clear request that allows the recipient to save face. It might look like “May I introduce you to this client?” or “Do you have any comments on this ad copy? If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll assume everything looks good.”

2. “According to our conversation”

This sentence (and likewise, “as discussed” or “by” whatever) seems too formal and contentious.

Unless you are documenting something for legal purposes, avoid using this phrase. He comes across as stern, cold, distant and inauthentic.

Instead, you might say, “I’m attaching the article I mentioned on our call…” or “It was great chatting with you earlier.” Here is the job description for the vacancy in my team in case you know someone.

3. “I hope this email finds you well…”

It’s a curiously roundabout way of saying “I hope you’re doing well”, which, according to the relationship, box be sincere. It’s best used with someone you have an established relationship with and haven’t been in contact with recently. It’s much less sincere with people you just met or don’t know at all.

Once I received an email from an acquaintance I hadn’t spoken to in a while. It was late 2020 and the world had turned upside down due to Covid. It would be inauthentic to not recognize the anxiety and fear that we all faced. She opened her post with, “Hope you and your family are doing well during this absolutely crazy time.”

“Bonkers” made his email genuine. It’s not a word people often use in work emails, but it was about the fact that we were all adjusting to a tough time.

In short, don’t be afraid to show that you care about them on a personal level.

4. “Warmly,…” (or any auto-generated closing greeting)

Although intended to save the sender time, most auto-generated closing greetings – “Best regards”, “Best”, “Best regards”, “Thank you”, “Best wishes”, “Sincerely” – generally give your email sound impersonal.

Your signature should match both the relationship you have with the recipient and the nature of your email. You wouldn’t use “Warm regards,” for example, if you were asking the finance team about your payment status. You also wouldn’t use “Thank you” if you provide an update to your colleagues – what are you grateful for?

Customize the closing greeting based on the context of the message. It will only take a second or two. Of course, if you make a request, you can sign with “Thank you”. But if you’re sending an update to a colleague, choose something that reflects the conversation, like “See you soon” or “See you at tomorrow’s meeting!”

Rebecca Zucker is an executive coach and founding partner of Next Step Partners, a leadership development company. She is a regular columnist at harvard business review, and she’s worked with companies like Amazon, Clorox, DocuSign, and Dropbox. Follow Rebecca on Twitter @rszucker.

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