We all know that “we women” are not always given the same chances, salaries and growth opportunities as men do. But we often have to face that the most dangerous enemy is own internal one, hidden in our heads. One of the main ways we can display our leadership potential is through the way we communicate. Both verbal and nonverbal communication is crucial in conveying our message and showcasing ourselves as a professionals and a leaders.
In this post, I would like to list seven commonly used phrases and words that sound often innocent. Although often seen as harmless, words have a silent power of influencing our image and position towards the other person. Be aware when using them too often.
“I guess, I think ….”
Listen to the following sentences.
“I think, I managed this project well.”
“I guess, I managed this project well.”
“I managed this project well.”
Which one do you think sounds more convincing? The last one of course. Adding “I think” dilutes the answer and makes you sound weaker. Even worse “I guess”. Avoid both of them, and practice stating things simply and firmly.
We girls are trained from the early age to be nice, polite and say thank you and sorry for almost everything we do. I catch myself often for saying ‘sorry’ much too often. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in apologizing when we do make mistakes. Yet, we need to pay attention if we are not overly apologetic.
We often use it as a stop word, for example “Sorry, would you mind if I add something?” or “Sorry, do you have a minute?” We can say both without being sorry. Clearly in both cases we didn’t do anything to be apologizing for.
The word “but”, is definitely not only a reserved for women. Both men and women overuse it. Do you know that “Yes, but…” actually means “No, because…” in a slightly more polite way. The word “but” downgrades everything that was said before it.
Imagine you are giving feedback to your employee and say:
“I am really happy with how you handled this difficult client, but ….”
“You improved your communication skills in the last months, but …”
“I am impressed with how you managed this project, but …”
Do you think, this person will really feel appreciated, and will believe you are happy and impressed with their progress? No, they won’t. They will only focus on the part that comes after “but”. So, use it with care, and whenever possible replace with “AND”.
If you look at the usual application of “just”, we use it to describe when something happened a ‘minute ago’. For example, “I just got up.’ “I just finished my coffee.” But we often add it to soften the message. If applied in the second context, “just” makes you sound unsure about the message you are communicating or could mean you are looking for an excuse. Read the following examples:
“I am just very tired.”
“I am just worried that…”.
Additionally, it may sound like you are undermining something that needs to happen. If you are asking for example your employee to do something, “I just need you to solve the issue with this client.”, it may sound like it is not that much of a big deal, and something easy to do. It is best to clearly state what needs to happen without sugarcoating or downplaying the situation or activity.
We often tend to over appreciate the effort of others and neglect our own. When someone thanks you for something you helped them with, instead of saying “no problem”, say “you are welcome”. When you say “no problem” you do two things, first it sounds like you are undermining your own effort. Secondly, for our brains “no” doesn’t exist. If you say, “don’t think of a pink elephant”, you will think of a pink elephant. And in the same way, when you say “no problem”, you make it sound like there could have been one.
“I have to” versus “I want to”
I hear my clients saying it very often. “I have to read more. I have to train more. I have to be a better mother and so on.” You do not have to. It is your choice and replacing “I have to” with “I want to” is empowering. Saying “I have to”, comes from your internal saboteur that tells you what to do. It doesn’t sound like it is your own free will to do that.
When you say, “I want to”, it is YOU who is in charge, and whatever you are doing, you are owning it. As a result, the chance that you will actually do it and feel good about it is much higher. “I want to” is about ownership . When you start using it more often, I guarantee you, you will put in action all the things you do, much quicker than when you say “I have to”.
We use “I’ll try” if we are not sure we can actually accomplish something or if we are not sure if we actually want to invest our time and energy into something. In both cases, “I’ll try” is not a good answer. It makes us look less competent and confident. First, if you need more time to decide whether you can do, the thing you were asked to do, just say it. “I need more time to think about it and I will get back to you tomorrow, next week etc.”
Secondly, if you made up your mind whether you want to take on proposed activity or not, you can assertively say “Yes” or “No”. If you need help, state it accordingly.