In the professional world, our words hold a lot of weight. This has only become more true in the increasingly digital workplace. As we see our colleagues less in real life and have fewer accidental run ins or casual interactions as a result, the words we choose when we do get together become more important.
And while taking others at face value and assuming positive intent is the best way to create long-lasting, trusting bonds with your colleagues (and the best way to stay sane), it's impossible to think everyone will give you the same grace. So, being choosy about the phrases you use to interact with your colleagues is a must — especially when certain phrases can compromise your professional reputation or perceived trustworthiness.
One such phrase: "If I'm being honest" or it's sister "To be completely transparent."
These casual phrases have slipped their way into common parlance. They are often used to imply a new, different intimacy with the person you're speaking to or to communicate that something may not be a "typical" fact for the conversation but it's something that must be said.
While these messages seem positive on their face, their implications can have the opposite impact you may be going for. Suggesting you're only being honest now — after using the phrase — may cause the listener to wonder if you were being fully transparent before. In other words, if you're just now sharing your thoughts, how often are you hiding your perhaps impolite or "real" thoughts? This phrase can also come across as a bit fake. While it implies intimacy, the person across the room (or Zoom call) from you may not feel you are, in actuality, being completely honest or transparent — or that you don't have the proper relationship to do so.
So, what can be said instead? Usually, it is best to jump into the fact or opinion you're trying to present, especially if it may be different or "more real" than what the person is expecting to hear. You can ask if they have any questions or how they feel about the fact or opinion, or offer up how you feel about it. This creates true exchange and honesty instead of putting on a facade of it, which is always a stronger approach.