As 2021 comes to an end, you're probably thinking about the past year and things you'd like to be different next year. That's only natural, and it can be a useful exercise even in an ordinary year. The past few years, as everyone knows, have been anything but ordinary. That means it is likely even more that we'd like to change as we cross into the new year.

Of course, much of what we'd like to change is out of our control. Thankfully, however, there are habits and or things we can do differently. Often, we think of things we should start doing, but equally helpful can be to think about what to eliminate from our lives.

For example, one of the most powerful things you can stop doing is to eliminate this single phrase from your conversations: "No offense, but..." There's never a good reason for it to come out of your mouth and you should never use it again.

Every time you say it, one of two things happen, and neither of them is good. Most of the time, you're probably about to say something you shouldn't say. At a minimum, you're about to say something you think might offend someone. That's a poor way to communicate and it can be toxic to your relationships.

Just because you say "no offense" to someone doesn't mean that you aren't going to offend them. You don't get a free pass because you added a few magic words at the beginning of an insensitive or offensive statement.

Instead, you should probably think of a better way to communicate. If you can't say something without worrying that you might offend the person you're talking to, you might want to try a little harder.

The other possibility is even worse. Sometimes you say "no offense" in front of something that isn't offensive, but you just planted a seed in the mind of the person you're talking to that they might be offended by your words. That not only creates the potential for friction in both the conversation and the relationship, but it also creates doubt in your motivation. 

Even if they weren't offended, now they're wondering if they should be. They're wondering whether the thing you said was meant to be offensive. In this case, you end up doing a lot more harm than good. 

Finally, there's another, just as important reason to stop using this phrase. Sometimes the thing you really need to say to someone might offend them. That, believe it or not, isn't your responsibility. Your responsibility is to be truthful with people and speak to them with grace. It's not to "not offend." 

Only the recipient can decide whether to be offended by something. Sometimes you can do your best to be respectful and the other person will still get offended. That's unfortunate, but it's simply a reality of relationships. 

That doesn't mean you should be a jerk, and it doesn't mean you should be careless with your words. It does, however, mean that if the thing you have to say is important and is said with respect, you don't need to qualify it. Just say it. Otherwise, you only weaken your message.

Dropping this single phrase will improve your relationships, strengthen your credibility, and increase the likelihood you'll get your message across--all without offending anyone. That seems like as good a way as any to start 2022.