An Ivy League Professor Claims Saying These 2 Phrases Makes You Less Successful In Life

by Megan Grant

Just. It's a word that we've been told to eliminate from our language because it can come across as weak and minimizing, and could hamper how seriously we're taken in conversations. According to one Stanford professor, there are a few more words that make you less successful that we should consider eliminating pronto: "I have to," and "but"; and it all has to do with how others perceive us when we use these words (negatively) and how it could hurt our chances for progress in life, work, relationships, and beyond.

Professor Bernard Roth is a professor of mechanical engineering, and he knows a thing or two about language, too. His 2015 book The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life discusses how the way you think impacts your success. He proposed the idea of "design thinking," which is — in a nutshell — about adjusting your thoughts and language to help solve a problem. When applied to our language, it includes swapping out "I have to" and "but" with more constructive, thoughtful words that don't minimize what you're saying and give people a reason to dismiss you, even subconsciously.

What are better ways to get your thoughts across while also avoiding using these words? Here's what Professor Roth suggests, if you want to actually find solutions and improve your life.

Instead Of Saying "I Have To," Say...

"I want to." This especially comes in handy when looking at your own responsibilities or tasks for the day. When you say, "I have to," it makes it sound like something you dislike — a chore or obligation that you must handle against your own will. By swapping it out with, "I want to," we remind ourselves that what seems like an obligation is very likely a result of choices we've made in the past.

It's such a small trick that can make a huge change in the way you go about your day. Similar to how smiling — even if it's forced — can instantly help you feel better, pretending you want to do something you don't really want to do could help make you more productive, efficient, and even a little happier.

You might also consider this in a workplace setting. If you're addressing your team and say something like, "We have to close two new accounts before the end of the month," it could give the impression that they have to close two new accounts... or else. If you change it out for, "We want to close two new accounts before the end of the month," it sounds more like a challenging goal that people will want tackle.

Instead Of Saying "But," Say...

"And." Think about it: when you say "but," what usually follows is the downside to the situation. "He's really cute, but..." "I love my job, but..." "She's really good at math, but..." It implies a downside without really proposing a solution: "I love my job, but I need more money, so I guess I need to find a new job," instead of, "I love my job, and I need more money, so maybe I'll ask for a raise. It's been two years." As Professor Roth explains, "but" puts you in an either-or scenario, whereas "and" helps you consider the solutions to your problem: you can keep your awesome job and make more money.

Similar to refraining from saying "just," avoiding "I have to" and "but" is a small change that can have a big impact. Our words are powerful. This method of changing your language can help others see you in a more positive light, as well as change your own perception of your life and actions, making for an overall more successful and happy you.