Originally posted on Forbes.
Every detail does matter.
When you have big dreams, and a grand vision for your career, it’s the little actions, and the small details you prioritize that will set you apart. Sure, you can work on adding habits and incorporating new skill sets into your daily life. Nonetheless, it’s key to stop and ask yourself: what do you need to eliminate or change today?
It is easier to add a new habit than it is to break an old one because habits are comfortable and we are hardwired to want that safety. What if that one conversational habit you had was blocking you from the success you want to create in your networking efforts, or what if the nervous tick to repeat “umm’” over and over was what didn’t get you that big break?
The first step is recognizing that you have a habit that needs to be broken in the first place. Here are six of the most common habits I have seen ruin someone’s credibility without them even realizing it.
1. Constantly apologizing.
When you use “sorry” in every conversation, people are not only going to be confused, but it leaves the impression you don’t value your own thoughts, ideas, and actions. If you are constantly apologizing for everything, you are planting one seed inside of your coworker’s minds: that you don’t do things right.
I like to tell coaching clients to replace “I’m sorry” with “thank you”:
2. Using “uptalk” in your dialog.
Uptalk is a speech pattern that completes each sentence with an ascending inflection in sound, like that of a question. This happens in the typical “valley girl” accent we all know and love from the movie Clueless. Often this inflection sound leads those you talk to, to wonder if you are asking a question or providing an answer. It creates doubt in you from your listener, and triggers questioning as to whether what you’re saying is true or not. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, and when you speak with uncertainty, you convey just that. The pitch of your voice does matter, and a Science study proves it. There is a group of neurons that actually track changes in someone’s tone of voice- and our brains give meaning to sounds.
In order to instill confidence and trust in your communication, you want your statements to sound like declarations, not questions. If you are uncertain of whether you do this, record yourself talking and listen to hear whether your sentences are floating suggestions or sound like you are stating a fact.
3. Having poor manners.
Using good manners is so simple, yet so underrated. I have seen some of the most powerful people in a room completely disregard standard manners by picking their nose, forgetting to say thank you when someone opens the door, interrupting people when they talk or shoving someone when they’re walking by—and unknowingly pay a price for it. We have all been in a room with that person who doesn’t thank the wait staff or causes a scene because something simple wasn’t granted to them. In the moment, they get what they want, but in the long haul, it’s off-putting. No matter how established someone may be, let’s be honest:this sort of action casts a negative shadow over them that isn’t easily forgotten. Be the person who says “please” and “thank you” with your coworkers, managers, sales team, and vendors.
4. Being a conversational vampire, or narcissist.
A conversation narcissist politely shifts the focus of the conversation from someone else to themselves. This could look like:
Coworker: “I just recently gave a presentation to the management team and I forgot to pass out the handouts that I printed. I feel like such an idiot for forgetting.”
You: “Oh that’s nothing, one time I was talking to the entire upper-level executive team and I only made a few copies, I didn’t know everyone was going to come. Luckily they all loved the presentation…”
This style of communication diminishes the other person and immediately dismisses their question, request for guidance or story altogether. By shifting the focus to you, and using their share as a start to talk about yourself, you may be minimizing their needs or concerns, and discrediting what they are sharing. This leaves those around you feeling pretty dismissed and misunderstood, and you can bet that over time, they’ll realize they cannot come to you for connection or guidance in the future.
One way to avoid being this archetype is by practicing validation with people. That means, whether you agree with what they’re saying or not, showing that you appreciate or respect their point of view however you can. Often that will sound like, “I can see where you’re coming from with that,” or “I’m sorry you’re feeling [insert their feeling here.” Once you validate someone, considering asking them for more information on their story, so that you can stay in curiosity and heart-centered listening, without making it about you. This is the work of strong leaders.
5. Participating in workplace gossip.
Gossip causes people to view one another differently. Whether you are speaking the truth or not, gossip creates friction between coworkers and leads to a toxic workplace culture. You may think being the “in-the-know” person in the workplace is going to get you ahead, but the truth is that gossip causes cynical behavior among employees and harms your value at work creating decreased trust. In fact, the person talking smack always looks worse than the person they’re speaking about.
Instead of engaging in the gossip, work on removing it. Be the example, and change the topic when gossip enters the room. If they circle back around to gossiping, you can nod your head through kind listening, and validate them with “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and change the subject. If they keep coming to you with gossip, consider setting a boundary that it doesn’t feel right for you to speak about colleagues in this way. Chances are that your colleague won’t like being the recipient of this conversation, but their discomfort with your boundary is truly not your responsibility, so long as you deliver it as kindly as possible.
6. Dressing inappropriately.
If you want to appear credible, you must not only fit the part on paper, but in how you dress. Back when I worked in counterterrorism in my early 20s, I’ll never forget a roommate I had who’d leave the house looking like she was going to a nightclub, except she wasn’t… she was off to work in the U.S. Senate! She was stuck without growth in the same role for years, and looking back, her clothing choices are a realistic reason as to why her career was stagnant. If you want to get ahead, what you wear matters more than you think. People perceive you differently based on what you wear, and studies have also have found that wearing formal attire makes your abstract thinking capabilities increase, making you more adept in your role.
There are a handful of fashion do’s and don’t I share when it comes to workplace attire, but a great rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. And if you have to ask yourself if an outfit or accessory is appropriate for work, it likely isn’t. Keep the club-inspired trendy attire for the weekends and be the credible professional you want to be viewed as.
Don’t let these habits wreak havoc on your career credibility. Take responsibility for your actions, thoughts, and words. At the end of the day, you’re the one that makes yourself credible.
Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.