7 expressions to avoid if you want to sound emotionally intelligent

Of course everyone gets tired or annoyed at work, but using these expressions sends the wrong message about your outlook.

7 expressions to avoid if you want to sound emotionally intelligent
[Illustrations: Akrain/iStock (pattern); Jolygon/iStock (brain)]

You spend a large portion of your time with your coworkers, and forming friendships at work is important to both your happiness and success.


But if you feel anger, annoyance, or negativity of some sort, it’s best to keep it to yourself. Why? For the simple reason that negativity reflects poorly on you and it also distances you from others.

Here are seven expressions to avoid within office walls if you want to be emotionally “smart.”

1. “I’m Tired”

Don’t be a downer by mentioning your fatigue. Sure, we’re all subject to this feeling. But avoid the temptation to talk about how tired you are. Whether it’s nine in the morning and you’ve had a sleep-deprived night, or it’s 6 p.m. and you’ve had a long day, it sends a negative message about you, and you’ll be a downer for those within earshot.

2. “I’m Pissed Off”

There are many reasons why you might be disgruntled about something at work, but here again, keep it to yourself. This oft-heard expression makes you appear out of sorts and at odds with someone or something else. Those with high emotional intelligence build bridges and turn negatives into positives.

3. “I’m Sick (of)__”

You may be in a mood to reject people or circumstances around you when things aren’t to your liking. So you may spew out, “I’m sick of this place,” or “I’m sick of pitching to customers only to have them say no to us.” It’s understandable that you may be annoyed. Sometimes things do hurt. But declaring yourself “sick of” only makes you sound emotionally unplugged. Even when things don’t go as you wish, rise above it and find a positive way to express your feelings. Or say nothing.

4. “I’m Worried About__/Afraid of__”

So many circumstances in the office can cause us to worry. We may fear not meeting a deadline, or be worried that our boss will not like a presentation we are about to deliver. Or in a politically charged situation we may think a colleague is intent on stealing turf that is ours.


These situations can cause us to worry. But if you share your fears with a colleague, your credibility will go down and your colleague will see you not as the emotionally secure team player that you want to be, but as a weaker and more isolated individual. So keep these negative thoughts to yourself and project confidence and rapport toward others.

5. “I Couldn’t Care Less”

We sometimes hear this expression in the office when colleagues are unsettled by a decision, but want to show that they are not going to let it get to them. “I couldn’t care less that I didn’t get that assignment.” This expression–which is full of not-so-suppressed anger–shows emotional ineptitude, because it projects an image of someone who is fuming inside.

6. “No Way”

If you use this expression negatively–as in “no way can I get that presentation done for you by tomorrow,” or “no way I’ll be working late tonight,” you’re sending up a flare of negativity. This shows emotional distance and a lack of cooperativeness. Keep the positive use of the term, and throw out the downer.

7. Whatever

This is a perfectly good word that has acquired a negative overtone in frequent office (and home) use. Its undercurrent is an aggressive message that reads: “Whatever you say or think doesn’t matter to me.” For example, a manager might say to her team, “Let’s meet regularly until we can resolve this problem,” and one of her teammates will respond with, “Whatever!”

The negative undertow is that the respondent is essentially saying, “Do what you want . . . you’re going to do that anyway, so why should I care?” In casual conversations this term is also used to “diss” someone who has taken an action you dislike or feel you have no input into.

Whenever this term is used, it smacks of venom and powerlessness on the part of the speaker. Best to delete “whatever” in all your conversations, unless you are using it in the traditional grammatical sense, as in “Whatever the customer decides will be fine with us.”


These seven expressions above unnecessarily position you as an outlier–someone who doesn’t fit in or who doesn’t feel comfortable with the people and circumstances that surround you. Why not avoid these negatives and find language to positively embrace the circumstances and people around you.


About the author

Judith Humphrey is founder of The Humphrey Group, a premier leadership communications firm headquartered in Toronto. She also recently established EQUOS Corp., a company focused on delivering emotional intelligence training to the fitness, medical, and business sectors