Whether you’re applying for your first job, branching out into a career change, or you’re an experienced leader, confidence is crucial in establishing yourself in your career. Becoming truly confident in your work life can be a lifelong process, but there are small steps you can take right now to lay the necessary foundation.
By doing something as simple as self-monitoring the language you use on a daily basis, you can avoid phrases that portray a lack of confidence. When you use the right language, not only will you appear confident to others, but you’ll convince yourself as well.
Ladder’s Kaitlyn McInnis, Forbes’ Christine Comaford, Inc’s Marla Tabaka, and CNBC Make It’s Kathy and Ross Petras cited some key phrases to ditch in order to exemplify confidence. We’ll categorize them and highlight a few of the most egregious examples.
“Almost: “I think I’ve said almost everything about that.”” -Christine Comaford
The core of what you’re saying can express your idea effectively, but a single word or innocuous phrase will take the power away from your message. In the above example, the speaker could have finished strong, but the phrase “I think” and the word “almost” take the wind out of the sails.
Qualifying words like the two above lead to being perceived as a weak leader or speaker. When you use these words, you aren’t owning the statement you’re making, and you’re disconnecting from your feelings, according to Christine Comaford. These words take the authority away from the speaker, making you appear weaker.
Med School Insiders lists adding “Does that make sense?”, “Know what I mean?”, and “I dunno” as other common qualifiers nervous speakers will add to the end of their ideas that express a lack of confidence.
Simply removing the qualifiers keeps the core of your message intact while making it appear stronger. Marla Tabaka provides the following:
“I just feel like this is an important problem for us to explore.” vs. “This is an important problem for us to explore.”
Which sounds more confident to you?
Being indirect or cliched
“I just wanted to check in…” – Kaitlyn McInnis
No matter who you’re speaking to, you have agency. While you should always be respectful, just because you aren’t in a position of power doesn’t mean you have to be meek. Make the most of your time by speaking clearly and confidently.
Opening an email with “I just wanted to check in” and closing with “Looking forward to hearing from you” are common cliches that Kaitlyn McInnis says to avoid. These phrases, and the ones like them, are dancing around the subject instead of getting to the heart of the matter. These phrases can even make it sound like you’re apologizing for simply requesting information or a follow-up.
“I hope this email finds you well” is another fan non-favorite. Not only is it a massive cliché, but no one actually talks like this. It’s a greeting of the inexperienced. A simple “good wishes” or “I hope you’re having a great day” feels more natural and sincere.
“Sorry to bother you, but…”- Kathy and Ross Petras
Tying into the above point, the problem with many of these words in phrases is that they appear overly apologetic. You shouldn’t feel like you’re impeding on someone’s time with a necessary request.
Apologizing when necessary is something everyone should strive for, but when you’re following up or asking for clarity, you shouldn’t feel excusatory.
Kaitlyn McInnis suggests finding ways to turn an apology into a thank you. If it took you a while to respond to an email, thank the sender for their patience rather than apologize for the tardiness. We all have things come up, and everyone should be willing to forgive the occasional late email.
“Sorry to bother you” is one of the most guilty examples. Kathy and Ross Petras say that you can appear much more confident and less self-deprecating with a simple “excuse me.” It’s a polite way to garner attention without belittling yourself. Remember—being direct is a sign of confidence!
We all fall victim to these weak phrases, and some of them are so ingrained in our vocabulary that we don’t even realize it! Take some time to self-reflect and analyze your language choices. You can even go back to previous emails or texts to see if you’re guilty of these practices. Avoid qualifying language, be direct and sincere, and don’t apologize simply for existing. These small steps will go far in making you sound confident to your peers and, with luck, yourself!