8 Words to Avoid When You Need to Talk About Yourself

First in a series: Words to Avoid

We all know that in business, certain words get overused and become clichés. And in our highly connected world, it happens pretty darn fast. In some of these cases, and in other instances, some word choices are just not right, because they give the wrong impression. Here are some examples that are all-too-often used when we need to describe our capabilities in resumes or bios:

  • Expert/Guru. These are two words you should never say about yourself. It’s great to be called an expert or a guru, but they are judgments that others say about you. Period. Show your expertise and let someone else call you an expert.
  • Motivated. In business, you’re supposed to be motivated. Let your accomplishments demonstrate your motivation. Don’t take credit for things you are supposed to do – or supposed to be.
  • Passionate. People try to set themselves apart with a word like this. But if everyone is saying it, it sounds derivative and falls flat. It could also sound a little weird if you’re describing your feelings about everyday work. Perhaps a word like “specialize” might sound a bit more down to earth.
  • Creative. I’ve read that “creative” is one of the most-used words in Linked-In profiles – used so often it no longer has any impact. If you’re creative, describe what you’ve created. If it’s truly creative, the reader will know.
  • Driven. This one is a particular pet peeve. Data driven. Customer driven. In it’s original meaning, it suggested that someone was almost obsessive. Not sure that’s a good thing. But no matter how you use it, like “motivated” or “creative,” it has become filler and it means nothing.
  • Responsible. Everyone should be responsible. But if you’re responsible for something, it’s better to say what you accomplished rather than saying what you’re responsible for. “As sales director, I grew revenue by 25 percent in 2014.” It’s active, not passive.
  • Strategic. This may be my favorite. Being strategic is basing decisions on the big picture and your future outlook. Everyone should be strategic instead of just making decision on immediate challenges. And again, because of overuse, the word has run out of gas. It does nothing to enlighten or clarify.

Remember the adage, “show don’t tell” when you’re describing your capabilities. Let others come to realize that you’re motivated, passionate and creative by seeing what you’ve actually done. You’ll come across as more confident, and you’ll avoid sounding like everyone else.

6 comments on “8 Words to Avoid When You Need to Talk About Yourself

  1. I completely agree, Don. Let others draw these conclusions about you from the facts you share.

  2. Ron Esposito on

    Don, Nicely written! Dead on.

  3. Howard Drescher on

    Speaking of hateful cliches, am I the only one who despises the pretentious use of “curate” when plain words like edit or organize will do?

  4. I have been motivated to strategically share this creative post from one guru to another. Nice job!

  5. Mary Lynn Halland on

    Very thought provoking, Don. Talk about what you’ve accomplished, what impact you had, etc. and it will be obvious that you were driven, motivated, etc.

  6. LindaIrene on

    Excellent points! Imagine it’s distressing for some to hear their claim of guru is no longer effective. 😉 I think I have some work to do…on Linked In. Thanks.

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