Want to speak more confidently and concisely? Eliminate phrases like, “​In all honesty…”​ and “Actually…”​

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Summer is officially here, and so is golf season. My game continues to improve, thanks to lessons with an expert and practice, practice, practice!

I like to take advantage of every opportunity to tee up with business associates, friends, and family. But there is a different kind of tee-up many of us do—verbal tee-ups—that may undermine our efforts to communicate clearly, effectively, and with confidence. 

What are verbal tee-ups?

The term verbal tee-up refers to a common speech pattern of using an unnecessary word or phrase used to start a sentence.

For example:


Long story short…

As far as I know…

In all honesty…

Do these phrases sound familiar?

Why tee-ups interfere with your message

While an occasional tee-up may go unnoticed, chronic use of these terms undermines your message and signals warnings to the listener of potential bad news, dishonesty, or insincerity. As a result, the listener prepares for what may come next and doesn’t focus on what you are actually saying.

In a Wall Street Journal article, “Why Verbal Tee Ups Like ‘To Be Honest’ Often Signal Insincerity,” Elizabeth Bernstein discussed how these phrases can be confusing to the listener. Tee-ups may:

  • Imply the opposite of what the words mean. When you hear “Long story short….,” you know there might be a long story ahead!
  • Attempt to lessen the impact of bad news. “Don’t take this the wrong way…” may be bracing you for an insult or criticism. 
  • Imply dishonesty. “Let me be honest…” can imply that at other times your statements are dishonest.

Do you use tee-ups in your everyday speech?

Listen to yourself when you talk to others. Do you use tee-ups? If so, what are they? In what types of situations do you use them most? 

The first step to change is awareness. Become aware of the words you use and the impact they have on the listener. With mindfulness and focused attention, you can begin to reduce or eliminate those starters and communicate in a more honest and sincere manner.

In golf, the fewer shots you take, the better your score. In speaking, the fewer words you use to get to the point and deliver a clear, concise message, the better your communication.

I’d say that’s par for the course! Do you agree?

Three steps to reducing tee-ups

  1. Identification. Spend a few days paying attention to your speech. Write down any unnecessary words or phrases you use to start your sentences or thoughts.
  2. Awareness. Become aware of each time you use the words you identified. In what situations do they occur? Also listen for tee ups in the speech of others. 
  3. Practice. Plan what you want to say. Rehearse conveying your thoughts and information without the aide of a sentence starter.

With practice, you will reduce your use of tee ups and communicate more efficiently.

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