Language is the hardest work tool to manage. It’s unpredictable and has the power to befriend the greatest enemy and make adversaries of your closest kin. In a new piece from Time, Eric Holtzclaw investigates the one word that could ruin your credibility.
When pitching a product or idea, there is a given amount of truth-blurring that comes with the job. However, when exercising your right to white lie, you hedge your bets that someone like Holtzclaw isn’t on the other side.
After years of being pitched to, Eric has distilled the working world’s greatest mistake down to one word. And it’s ‘actually’.
The word triggers alarms in any savvy business-person brain to investigate the area associated with the vagueness.
As Eric puts it: “Extra words used in a sales presentation or investor pitch are unnecessary. They subconsciously point listeners to question if there’s more unspoken information.”
“The word ‘actually’ serves as a spoken pause, giving the presenter’s brain time to catch up and decide how to resolve the conflict in their mind between the question asked and reality.”
The example he gives is a question and answer role-play that goes something like this:
Q: “How many customers are using your platform right now?”
A: “We have actually have over 100 investors”
It takes time to ween yourself off of the word ‘actually’ because it is a docile tranquilizer to a declarative that might come across too aggressive or forward. The art of softening language is a very English trait but one that needs to be stamped out if you are to make convincing pitches in the future.