‘Honestly, Use These Instead’

‘Honesty is the best policy’.

We’ve all heard that saying and most would agree it’s a sound rule to live by.

Whether it be in sales copy, a personal heart-felt post or an email, I regularly see the word ‘honestly’ or the phrase ‘to be honest’.

Merriam Websters dictionary says ‘honestly’ takes on these meanings: Really, Genuinely, Without Frills, [to act] In An Honest Manner.

However, when the word ‘honestly’ appears in a business context in efforts to explain how honest the company is or to make an impact and get a point across for you to trust them, I can’t help but cringe…at least a little.

To expand on how why you would want to reconsider using the word ‘honestly’ or the phrase ‘to be honest’ in your communications, I’ll share these five insights:

  • “When they [the customer] hear a salesperson use a word or phrase like this, they can’t help but suddenly begin to re-process everything they’ve been told up to that point in time…It’s not what you think the meaning of the word is; it’s what your customer thinks the meaning of the word is that can and will do damage.” — thesaleshunter.com
  • “Honestly. If you have to say ‘honestly’ before you make your point, you’re doing something wrong. If you always say what you mean, you won’t have to clarify when you’re being honest.” — entrepreneur.com
  • “The phrase to be honest is meant to signify the fact that the speaker is talking frankly. But it’s an odd phrase because it implies that the speaker isn’t being honest the rest of the time.” — saleslatitude.com
  • “To be credible, you should be straightforward every time. And when you are, no qualifier like ‘honestly’ is needed,” he says. “Authenticity is the only honesty you need…’honestly’ is also the most “damaging word in business” because it creates distance.” — businessinsider.com
  • “When someone feels the need to assert their honesty, it subtly reduces their personal credibility… ‘To be honest’ is a phrase that can introduce misgivings about your personal credibility.” — lifehacker.com

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To minimize the risk of unintentionally miscommunicating your level of integrity or ethics, try these considerations, words and phrases in place of ‘honestly’ or ‘to be honest’:

  • Find alternate ways to express yourself and opinions without using the words in question.
  • If you slip, keep it positive and stay on track speaking the truth.
  • Be forward. You could use the phrase ‘to be blunt’ or you could simplify your thoughts and get straight to the point without the fluff — it will be appreciated by the reciever.
  • Use descriptive words. For example, when urging your customers to be aware of an issue, instead of saying, ‘Honestly, do x to fix y’, you could say, ‘Here are three ways to fix y’…and tell them what they need to know. Keeping it simple and on track without extra filler fluff. Remember, less is often more.
  • ‘Let me (or may I…questions are always good!) share something more with you…’ is another decent suggestion that leads into a more trusting relationship or interaction.

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I slip, I screw up grammar a lot, I use words like ‘honestly’ and I have a loonnnggg way to go to feel confident at speaking on-the-spot…or public speaking in general.

I also like improving myself…finding alternative options…ways to be better and do better.

If something doesn’t work, I keep practicing, practicing, practicing. Being careful not to beat myself up too much over mistakes, I move on keeping one foot in front of the other.

Have you axed the word ‘honestly’ from your vocabulary? What were your take-aways?

-Becky

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