What is said is often not what is meant.

Especially where these are concerned:

1. "I'm just thinking out loud ... "

Brainstorming is one thing. Making half-baked proposals is another.

That's why Jeff Bezos famously makes people read documents before a meeting starts. He wants considered responses, considered ideas, and considered proposals.

Don't think out loud. Do your thinking first.

And if you haven't had time to think, just be quiet and leave the floor to those who have.

2. "No, it's fine."

"No, it's fine" actually means "No, it's not fine, but I don't want to talk about it anymore."

3. "In case you missed this ... "

Maybe the recipient did miss your cold call-esque email. More likely, though, they weren't interested.

As a sender, understand the person you're targeting. If it's someone who gets dozens of unsolicited emails a day, like Mark Cuban, he didn't respond because he gets too many to respond to individually. 

If he's interested, he'll respond.

If you're tempted to send a follow-up, find a more creative way to send another email. "In case you missed this" only ensures that even if he does see your second email, he's not going to read that one either.

Which is also true for ...

4. "Cycling this back to the top of your inbox ... "

A copy-pasted resend is no more attractive than the original.

Which is also true for:

5. "Just following up ... "

Occasionally a follow-up is warranted. If someone said they would do something and haven't, by all means follow up. Even the most organized occasionally forget. 

But if you're just "following up" to take a second or third shot, find a more creative opening line. Look at what you wrote in the first email. In all likelihood, it was benefit-driven: for you. 

Want people to respond? Find a way to benefit them.

6. "It's not about the money."

Whatever it's "not about" is almost always exactly what it's about. Like money; if money weren't an issue, you wouldn't even think to bring it up. (An employee once said, "I don't want a raise because of the money. I want a raise because of the respect it confers.")

Keep in mind there's nothing wrong with money being a primary driver.

If it's not about the money, focus on what is most important.

7. "That sounds great. I'll let you know!"

Rarely has someone told me that and gotten back to me.

Never have they gotten back to me with a "yes." 

While your intentions may be good, letting people down easy often gets their hopes up.

Which makes the eventual letdown even worse.

8. "I'm a giver."

A boss used to say that all the time. But he wasn't.

Truly giving people give generously, selflessly, and without expectation of return. They give because a portion of their happiness -- and their success -- comes from seeing other people be happy and seeing other people succeed.  

Giving people give because it's who they are.

Do you walk around saying "I'm a man" or "I'm a redhead" or "I'm an American"? Of course you don't. Those things are who you are.

To quote Margaret Thatcher (which I'm realizing I often do), "Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren't."

The same is true for being a giver: People already know if you are. And if you aren't.

9. "Let me be honest." 

"Let me be honest" implies you haven't been honest, or open, or forthcoming up to this point.

And if not, why not?

If you need to say something difficult, just say it. Don't pretend you're saying something you shouldn't say -- because if you really shouldn't say it, don't say it.

And if you feel you need to foreshadow bluntness, use "frankly" or "candidly." Or "to be clear."

10. "With all due respect ... "

Take it from Ricky Bobby: "With all due respect" implies you feel the other person is wrong. Or misguided. Or somehow missing the mark.

Instead of using a theoretically impact-softening preface, just say, as politely and professionally as you can, what you really mean.

Because the best way to show "due respect" is to be honest and forthright. 

11. "Pursuant to your instructions ... "

Would you say to someone, in person or on the phone, "Pursuant to your instructions, I emailed Biff regarding the above-mentioned issue"? 


So just say, "As requested." Or, "As you asked."

Or just say what you did; after all, the person you're writing already knows what they asked you to do.

More examples: 

  • Replace "we are in receipt of" with "we received"
  • Replace "at your earliest convenience" with "as soon as possible"
  • Replace "your consideration and courtesy are greatly appreciated" with "thanks" or "thank you"
  • Replace "at the present time" with "now" or "currently"

Say what you mean, clearly and simply, and you're much more likely to motivate, convince, persuade, inspire, instruct, educate ...

Which is what really matters.