We all know that communicating well is vital both in our personal and professional lives. At work, as in relationships, it all starts with conveying confidence. We usually end up admiring it as a trait of successful people while lamenting its absence in ourselves. But the good news is that confidence is as much about appearance as it is about feeling it. So where better to start than in the way you talk and write? After all, language is the number-one tool you have to give others a favorable impression.
When I was in high school, one of my classmates used to call my house in the afternoon, usually asking for homework help. When my parents answered, she would always start with: “Hi. It’s just Arianna”. Over time, my parents started calling her “Just Arianna.” Now, Arianna is an intelligent and hard-working person. She’s not JUST Arianna. Don’t be “JUST <your name>.” Be important. “Just” makes you sound weak. It’s code for feeling like you’re asking for too much. Start by deleting your justs from emails and other written texts. Then move to real-time, spoken communication. Notice how much stronger and straightforward your statements will sound.
“I’m not sure, but”
Sometimes we want to avoid sounding cocky and arrogant. To do that, we resort to prefacing our ideas with qualifiers like “I’m no expert but…”. These either turn out to be passive-aggressive ways to lash into a fury or they end up negating the credibility of your statements altogether. In either case, breathe in for a count of three before speaking up and try rephrasing your words without a qualifier.
I Can’t vs I Won’t
There are very few things that you actually “can’t” do. Most of the things you don’t do are so because you simply won’t. So why keep saying “can’t”? It sounds passive. And it conveys the idea that you don’t have the skills to do something, while chances are that you’re setting boundaries, clarifying what you don’t want to do. Increase ownership over what you say by replacing “I can’t” with “I won’t”.
It wasn’t that long ago that exclamation points were shunned upon as shouty and juvenile. Social media changed that. Nowadays, you can even feel the pressure to use two, three, or even more of them to convey true enthusiasm. Having said that, overusing exclamation marks, emojis, or other emotional cues suggests that you’re quite concerned about being likable enough. It shows core insecurity. Particularly in corporate environments, tailor your language to match that of your senior colleagues.
Am I Doing This Alright?
You don’t need to periodically ask: “Am I making sense?”. Chances are that you were, at least until you asked that question. It speaks to an unconscious belief that you’re not qualified to talk on the matter. Of course, this does not apply to every context. But you should consider whether phrases like “I look forward to your questions” may be better for engagement without harming your conviction in what you’re saying.
Subtle language cues can make you sound and, in turn, feel less confident. Noticing these common pitfalls can turn you into a more effective communicator.