words“To be honest with you, I’m going to put my cards on the table, tell you the truth, and this time, I mean it!” That certainly was a very passionate statement! For some of you, I’ll bet you can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Okay, it’s filled with clichés, but it sure gets the point across! Let’s think about this a little more. Here is how I interpret phrases such as the ones I used in that first sentence:

  • “To be honest with you…” I know that the individual I’m speaking with is, most likely, always being honest with me? What is that suggesting about other things they’re telling me?
  • “I’m going to put my cards on the table…” I think the individual is reminding me that he or she is not holding anything back… at least about this particular thing!
  • “To tell you the truth…” I believe it’s nothing more than a reminder that the individual isn’t planning to lie to me – this particular time. I guess you can’t be too careful these days.
  • “This time, I really mean it…” I am thinking that, in this particular moment in time, whoever is communicating with me must really mean what they say! Did they not mean the things they told me prior to this?

For years, I would hear a manager or coworker tell me to watch my use of these phrases, and each time they did, I’d give them the same answer: “These types of phrases just don’t bother me!”

And therein lies the problem with phrases like these. We aren’t communicating with ourselves; we are communicating with our coworkers, friends, and a host of other individuals. For some of them, phrases like these distract them. For others, it annoys them, and for still others, it will stop them from taking you seriously.

If only there was a way to tell in advance who knows phrases like these are just figures of speech and are not to be taken seriously, and who finds phrases like these disconcerting and irritating. To be perfectly honest with you, there isn’t.

So, I guess it comes down to luck. If you still feel like reminding people you are being honest, or that you’re putting your cards on the table, or that you’re telling the truth, or that you really mean it this time, go for it! There’s a reasonable chance that those you are communicating with won’t be hanging on your every word, and will accept phrases like these in the spirit in which they are delivered. Yep, it just comes down to luck because most people will not correct you, so you’ll never know how words like these are received. The question to you is a simple one: Do you feel lucky?


  1. Rob,
    Enjoyed this post as it reminded me just how often we use common phrases as conversational crutches without slowing down long enough to realize their potential impact.. Believe me when I say that from this point forward, things will be different ;-). Thanks for another thoughtful piece!
    Best to you –

  2. Shahid Saigol says:

    Rob, I use your Customer Centered Selling (CCS) everyday as a wholesaler…never forget your great analogies (sand in the bathing suit). Enjoy watching the NFC East Champs Philadelphia Eagles play today!

  3. I agree with your examples, which all too often fall too easily from the lips. Another heard today, especially in a political context , “the fact of the matter is…” when rarely is it fact versus opinion or perception. True discourse is rare these days.

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