Everyone overuses a few words or phrases. (Myself definitely included.)

It's natural to fall into  conversational habits, but if you're hoping to communicate effectively, or be taken seriously, that can be a real problem. Use a certain word over and over and that word soon loses all meaning. Use a certain phrase over and over and you start to sound tedious. Use a  buzzword over and over and you just sound pretentious.

Let's make sure that doesn't happen to you.

Here are some overused words and phrases you should retire from your vocabulary:

1. "Expect the unexpected"

Forget the logic issue; how can I expect something I am not able to expect? What employees hear you say is, "I expect this to go well. If it doesn't, it's because you weren't sufficiently prepared or didn't react quickly enough. Either way, it's all on you because, hey, I told you to expect the unexpected."

Here's a better approach. Say, "If something happens we didn't plan for, here are steps to take. If you run into something you aren't sure how to deal with, call me and we'll figure it out together."

Instead of stating a platitude, provide a framework for how decisions will be made and problems will be overcome.

2. "With all due respect"

Go watch this. I'll wait.

Yep. Let's move on.

3. "That's just Joe being Joe"

Some people like to use a person's name twice--especially their own--in the same sentence as a way to justify unusual or unacceptable behavior. For example: "What can I say? That's just Joe being Joe." (Or even worse, "What can I say? That's just me being me.")

Whenever you say a person's name twice as a way to describe them, you're actually making an excuse for behavior you would never tolerate from someone else.

And everyone knows it.

4. "No problem"

We're all striving to delight customers, right? So when you ask a server for your dressing on the side, does "No problem" make you feel delighted, or like you're kind of a pain but the server is gracious enough to overlook it?

Your customers and employees feel the same way when you say "No problem" to their requests.

5. "At the end of the day"

"At the end of the day" probably started out as a different way of saying "in summary." Now it's filler, like "um" and "you know" and, well, "well."

Whenever you're tempted to start a sentence with "At the end of the day," just skip ahead and start with your point instead.

Then maybe we'll actually pay attention your point.

6. "It's on my radar"

No, it's not, or you would have already done something about it. "It's on my radar" is like saying, "I know you want (that), but it's soooo not a priority for me."

7. "Disruptive"

Yes, digital cameras were a disruptive technology. Ask companies like Kodak and Fuji. DVRs were a disruptive technology. Ask anyone who once made VCRs.

That new menu you created, or new system of checkout, or new way to manage customer accounts? Those are not disruptive: At worst, they're merely different; at best, they're somewhat innovative.

Use the word disruptive to describe your products or services and you purchase a one-way ticket to the Land of Hype--a place where everyone speaks and no one listens.

8. "Think outside the box"

This one is often code-speak for, "I want you to do (this) but I can't give you any money or resources or time, so if you don't get it done it's your fault because you weren't creative enough."

9. "Transparent"

Saying "transparent" is like saying "if I'm honest ... " The listener thinks, "OK, now you're going to be honest. But sometimes you're not?"

You either are transparent or you're not. If you are, it goes without saying. People already know.

And if you're not, you might also be trying to ...

10. "Manage expectations"

Of course, you would never tell a customer you're going to manage his or her expectations, but when you tell employees to manage someone's expectations, in a way you're telling them to, even if ever so slightly, be manipulative or sly or in some way less than truthful.

Then you've stepped onto, well, a term that could be on the list: a slippery slope.

Why not set, and then try to meet, expectations? That's a lot better than "managing" them.

11. "Take this offline"

Unless you would rather I embarrass, scold, or make you look stupid in front of everyone else.

12. "Give 120 percent"

I know; this one is just a way of indicating extra effort is required. But what kind of effort? What do you want me to do more of? What do you want me to do faster, or cheaper, or better?

Explain the situation. Tell me why something is critical or important. Then tell me what I need to do to overcome the problem or meet the challenge.

I won't work hard for a platitude, but I will work hard when I understand the importance of my effort.

13. "It is what it is"

Really? Wow. I had no idea. You are quite insightful. Descartes is officially jealous.

14. "I see what you're saying"

In fact, you don't really see what I'm saying because otherwise you would agree with what I'm saying. Beginning a sentence with, "I hear you ... " is like a condescending pat on the head.

If you disagree, just say so. You're going to anyway.

15. "It's all good"

When someone says this ... it never actually is.

Now it's your turn. What words or phrases make your list?

Published on: Jul 12, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.