How a simple three letter word can ruin your credibility

How a simple three letter word can ruin your credibility

Sunday September 18, 2016,

4 min Read

“I don’t have insurance, but I will drive carefully.”

“I know my product is better than XZ, but I am still not able to attract its buyers.”

“I try to keep my employees happy, but they still leave.”

You might know that you are on the wrong path, but are you doing anything to make it right? By using the word ‘but’, you are reassuring your listener(s) that you do not have the confidence and expertise as required to participate in the game. More often than not, this practice reduces your credibility to almost zero in the long run.

Image credits: Shutterstock
Image credits: Shutterstock

How many times have you heard successful people communicate this way – by minimising the language? How do you expect your stakeholders to trust in your statements if you yourself can’t resist negating them? ‘But’ is a commonly used three letter word that makes the listener ignore anything good you might have said before. It is a toxic conjunction that springs doubt into the decisions people make and interferes with even the best deals and career trajectories. How can this single word take down so much?

Here are three important spheres of any business where using this indicator of argument, objection and clause can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to create:


Let’s face the hard reality – the word ‘but’ makes people think twice. One of the easiest ways to discount your business’ credibility is to fall victim to bad communication habits that make the other person question your reliability. Why would anyone want to invest in a business that lacks clarity? For instance, “We plan to acquire 10 million users by 2018, but with the current structure it seems like a tough job.” Red alert! Even if you intend to be honest, you need to find a better way to communicate your apprehensions to your potential investors. Instead, you could say, “Our aim is to target 10 million users by 2018, and with the right resources in place, that we intent to hire with the funding, I’m sure to hit the target sooner or later.” Can you see the change of tone and the positive impact that it will have on the people sitting across the table?


“Let’s talk about the collaboration, but I’m not sure how profitable it could be.” More than condescending, such statements sound rude and uncalled for. Why would a vendor approach you in first place if he or she thinks that it is not going to work with your company? If you are ambivalent about the deal or think that the vendor’s arrangement doesn't go with the ethos of the brand, you could try beginning your statement with something like, “I’m sure you have a great plan for the collaboration despite the fact that our companies stand on two opposite poles of the industry.” Doesn’t this sound more respectful and to the point? Never underestimate the other without hearing out their plea, and most importantly, avoid starting a conversation with a negative sentence whatsoever.


The first impression matters. If your content or message is plagued by negative words, such as ‘but’, it’s likely that people will find it hard to trust the quality of your products or services. According to online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe, “When you sell or communicate on the internet, 99 percent of the time it is done by the written word.” (As shared in a feature by BBC News) Now imagine what havoc a wrong message play on your business' credibility. Negative words or statements can denounce the entire message and ultimately drive your customers away. This is how you make your customers fall in love with your product even when you can’t find the right set of words.

Identify the blind spots that can derail your image. In a fast paced, hyper-competitive business world, now is right time to work on your shortfalls. A bit of effort to boost your credentials can get you in the door and help you succeed at a faster rate.