This one is short and sweet with some quick tips. But first, a few words to set the stage. I’m authoring a book which is a compilation of interviews with chief marketing officers (CMOs). These are high level executives, many of them from big companies. They have all presented themselves very well as we’ve done interviews over the phone, but as I read the transcripts there are things that stand out in written form, and I’m learning a lot about the words we use that make us sound unsure and lacking in confidence. Here are some key phrases to eliminate from your vocabulary. Doing so will help you present yourself as the confident person you are.
“I think…” – I know, you want to be humble. You don’t want to come across as a know it all. But just try dropping “I think…” from your sentences and saying what comes after, and listen to how much better it sounds. If you’re really not sure about something, then say that. “I could be wrong on this, but here’s how things look to me…” or “I’m not completely sure about this, but…” are communicating helpful information. “I think…” doesn’t.
“I feel…” – There’s a time to say “I feel…” The time to say it is when you feel sad, mad, frustrated, confused, etc. The time to not say “I feel…” is when you’re using it to say “I think…” and we already know why we shouldn’t say that.
“Like I said earlier…” – It’s hard to avoid saying this, especially when it’s true that you did say something earlier and now you’re repeating yourself. If you can avoid repeating yourself, that’s best. But if that’s impossible, drop “Like I said earlier…” and try to use the word “again” somewhere. Not at the beginning of a sentence, because then you sound annoyed, as though people aren’t listening to you, but after the start of a sentence. For example, instead of “Like I said earlier, it’s the halo effect,” or “Again, it’s the halo effect,” say “It’s the halo effect again.”
“Actually…” – Not only can it sound hesitant, it can be seen as condescending or dismissive of another’s opinion.
“Literally…” – I’m guilty of using this too much, and now my kids use it all the time, which is how I noticed my own usage of it. The issue isn’t so much that the word signifies hesitation in and of itself, but it’s so overused that it has become meaningless. When we use lots of meaningless words, it sounds as though we’re trying to protect or hide our true thoughts, which makes us sound as though we lack confidence. Claire Fallon talks about this and other overused words over at HuffPost.
“So…” – If you’re Mark Zuckerberg, you can start your sentences with “so.” Otherwise, I recommend dropping it, at least most of the time.
“Well…” – Starting a sentence with “Well, there was this time…” is a clear indication that you’re still thinking, still hesitant. Remove it, and the sentence immediately sounds more decisive.
“It’s interesting because…” – Don’t tell us it’s interesting, just tell us what it is. If it’s interesting, we’ll be interested.
“Really…” – Whatever it is that is really, really good, or bad, or ugly, you can just tell us. Adding “really” to the beginning doesn’t make it really that much more of whatever it is. But it can make you sound like you’re really trying too hard to really emphasize something and it really becomes distracting when people use “really” a really, really lot. So it’s cool, you can drop it. Really.
“Very…” – See “Really…”
“You know…” – You know, I’m not sure why you shouldn’t say this. But it doesn’t need to be there, and makes you sound less sure of yourself. Do you know why? You tell me. Because I don’t know, but perhaps you know, you know?
“Um…” – And of course, “Uh…” and a host of other sounds and grunts. Embrace pauses and silence. They focus attention on you.
What would you add to this list?
Note: I don’t take these as hard and fast rules, but guidelines. For every rule above, there are legitimate reasons for breaking them in certain situations.Liked it? Share it!