The way we express ourselves through language plays a big part in how successful we are both personally and professionally. Even minor phrase selections and voice inflection can have a significant impact on our ability to influence and inspire others.
Women are especially susceptible to this. Culturally, we’re often taught to soften content by adding words that undermine our true message.
Whether male or female, here are 7 common elements to eliminate from your communication habits in order to increase your effectiveness in your career and beyond:
1) “I think…”
“I think” is our way of playing it safe and not fully committing to what we’re saying. Instead of “I think I need more information”, simply say, “I need more information.”
2) “I’m sorry…”
The phrase “I’m sorry” is quickly uttered when we believe we’ve committed even the slightest inconvenience, or even when we actually haven’t committed any offense at all.
For example, if you didn’t hear someone, say “Can you repeat that?” instead of “I’m sorry.” Even “I apologize” is more active than the passive “I’m sorry”.
“Hi, it’s just me…”
“Oh, I’m just an Office Manager….”
Using the word “just” is a humbling technique that often backfires. Why do we need to minimize who we are? This is important stuff, so project confidence when communicating with others.
4) “This may be a silly idea, but…“
“I don’t know if this is worth mentioning, but….”;
“I’m not an expert, but…”
It’s time to stop handicapping our ideas and contributions. In an effort to avoid sounding potentially threatening or because we fear someone disagreeing with us, we reduce the impact of our thoughts before they even materialize. OWN your ideas and your mistakes!
5) “Kind of…”
“Well, I was kind of frustrated when you took credit for my work…”
Don’t water down your words. This sends mixed messages and diminishes your value. Drop the “kind of” and speak with conviction. Let your colleague clearly know they overstepped a boundary.
6) “That’s okay.”
This is a common response after someone apologizes to us. Is it really okay that your colleague didn’t finish her part of the project on time or that your date showed up 45 minutes late because she lost track of time? If the apology is sincere, you may choose to say, “I accept your apology” rather than “That’s okay“, which could signal that this is behavior you may accept again in the future.
Uptalk is when we end a sentence or phrase on a high inflection, which in turn makes our statement sound more like a question rather than a declarative assertion. It’s a learned way of gaining approval that only serves to undermine our influence and negotiation tactics.
In a roundabout way, using uptalk communicates to others that we’re permitting them to make our decisions for us.
For example, if the Landscaper asks how much you plan to pay him and you say, “Twenty-five?” in the form of a question, it leaves the door open for a counter offer. If you declare, “Twenty-five”, without the voice inflection, it doesn’t leave the door open for further bargaining.
So how can you boost your impact today? Pick one example from the list above and make a conscious effort to change your habits. You’ll not only sound more confident, but you’ll also FEEL more confident.