Words aren’t just words; they shape how the world sees us and, more importantly, how we see ourselves.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be guided by a few incredible mentors, each of them uber-successful in their respective fields.
One common thread that struck me about these leaders?
They always spoke with conviction and unwavering confidence.
Reflecting on my own conversations, I realized that many phrases I occasionally used were ones they never uttered.
Without even realizing it, many of us sprinkle our dialogue with phrases that subtly erode our confidence, making us come across as hesitant or unsure.
But here’s the silver lining – with a few intentional tweaks in our linguistic arsenal, we can shift from sounding doubtful to projecting the assertiveness we genuinely feel and aspire to showcase.
There’s no need for theatrics or overcompensations; it’s about genuine, straightforward communication.
Ready to up your verbal game and sound like someone who’s not just speaking, but truly being heard and respected?
Let’s dive in.
1. “I’m just…”
Example: “I’m just thinking maybe we could try a different approach.”
The phrase “I’m just…” often sneaks into our vocabulary when we’re trying to be polite or avoid confrontation.
It inadvertently diminishes the importance of what we’re saying. It sounds like you’re apologizing for having an opinion or thought.
What to say instead: Be direct and own your thoughts.
“I think we should try a different approach.”
By dropping the “I’m just,” your suggestion sounds more confident and assertive, indicating you believe in what you’re saying.
2. “I’m no expert, but…”
Example: “I’m no expert, but shouldn’t we consider the long-term implications?”
This phrase can come off as if you’re undermining your own knowledge or experience.
Even if you’re not the top authority on a topic, you have a right to share your thoughts without downplaying them.
What to say instead: Share your observation without the disclaimer.
Instead: “Shouldn’t we consider the long-term implications?”
Your insights and observations are valuable.
By presenting them without a self-deprecating preface, you show that you trust in your own perspective, and others are more likely to do the same.
3. “Sorry to bother you…”
Example: “Sorry to bother you, but can I get your input on this?”
While it’s essential to be polite and considerate, prefacing your statements or questions with an apology can make you seem like you’re intruding or that your input isn’t valuable.
This can create an imbalance in professional or personal dynamics.
What to say instead: Acknowledge the other person’s time without an apology.
Instead: “Do you have a moment to discuss this?”
This approach respects the other person’s time and boundaries but doesn’t diminish the importance of your request or make it seem like you’re imposing.
4. “Does that make sense?”
Example: “We need to reallocate these resources to boost our quarterly results. Does that make sense?”
While you might be trying to ensure clarity, this phrase can inadvertently suggest you’re unsure about your own explanation or idea.
It can leave room for doubt in your listener’s mind regarding your confidence or the validity of your statement.
What to say instead: Encourage feedback or questions without questioning your clarity.
Instead: “I’d love to hear your thoughts on reallocating these resources to boost our quarterly results.”
This way, you’re still opening the door for further discussion or clarification but from a position of strength and mutual collaboration.
5. “It’s probably a dumb idea, but…”
Example: “It’s probably a dumb idea, but what if we extended the marketing campaign for another two weeks?”
Downplaying your ideas before you even present them is a surefire way to get them dismissed.
While humility has its place, self-deprecation can make it harder for others to see the value in your contributions.
What to say instead: Present your idea confidently and let it stand on its own merit.
Instead: “What if we extended the marketing campaign for another two weeks?”
By presenting your idea without the self-deprecating preface, you give it a chance to be evaluated genuinely based on its potential benefits, rather than being overshadowed by unnecessary self-doubt.
6. “This might be off-topic, but…”
Example: “This might be off-topic, but have we looked into collaborating with local influencers?”
Starting with such a phrase can divert attention away from your main point and might make listeners mentally prepare to dismiss or sideline what you’re about to say, even if it’s valuable.
What to say instead: Transition smoothly without underselling your point.
Instead: “Considering our brand outreach, have we looked into collaborating with local influencers?”
By framing it in a way that ties back to the main discussion or objective, your idea can seamlessly integrate into the conversation and be given the consideration it deserves.
7. “I could be wrong…”
Example: “I could be wrong, but I believe investing in this technology will yield a high ROI.”
While it’s good to show humility, starting with such a qualifier can instantly lower the weight of your subsequent statement.
It plants a seed of doubt in your audience’s mind before they’ve even processed your suggestion.
What to say instead: State your perspective, then open it up for feedback.
Instead: “I believe investing in this technology will yield a high ROI. What are your thoughts?”
By expressing your viewpoint directly and then encouraging feedback, you demonstrate both confidence in your opinion and a willingness to engage in constructive discussion.
8. “If that’s okay with you…”
Example: “I’ll handle the project update, if that’s okay with you.”
While the intention behind this phrase might be to show respect or courtesy, it can unintentionally convey a lack of confidence in your decision or action.
It gives the impression that you’re seeking validation for something you’ve already determined to be the right course of action.
What to say instead: Affirm your action and then check in.
Instead: “I’ll handle the project update. Does that align with your expectations?”
This approach communicates the decision you’ve made or the action you’re taking while also ensuring alignment with others.
It portrays confidence in your judgment, while still being collaborative.
9. “I guess…”
Example: “I guess we could try launching the product next month.”
Starting a statement with “I guess” projects uncertainty and a lack of commitment to the idea.
Even if the idea is brilliant, the ambivalence in your tone might cause others to question its validity.
What to say instead: Express your suggestion with conviction.
Instead: “I suggest we try launching the product next month.”
By replacing the uncertain “I guess” with “I suggest”, you’re not only proposing an idea but doing so with a sense of authority and confidence in its potential value.
10. “It’s just my opinion, but…”
Example: “It’s just my opinion, but I think this strategy will resonate better with our target audience.”
While it’s true that what we’re sharing may be subjective, prefixing a statement with “It’s just my opinion” diminishes the value of your insight and makes it seem like your view holds less weight.
What to say instead: State your perspective with clarity.
Instead: “I believe this strategy will resonate better with our target audience.”
By leading with “I believe”, you’re owning your viewpoint without diminishing its importance.
It projects a balance of confidence in your insights while acknowledging room for other perspectives.
11. “Don’t get me wrong…”
Example: “Don’t get me wrong, I like the current design, but it might benefit from a few tweaks.”
Using this phrase suggests you’re expecting or assuming a negative response to what you’re about to say.
It can also come across as if you’re on the defensive even before you’ve shared your thoughts.
What to say instead: Lead with the positive and then present your feedback.
Instead: “I appreciate the current design. Have we considered making a few tweaks to enhance it?”
This approach commends the effort or idea in question and then smoothly transitions into constructive feedback.
It keeps the conversation collaborative without setting a defensive tone.
12. “I don’t want to step on any toes, but…”
Example: “I don’t want to step on any toes, but has anyone looked into the data discrepancies?”
Prefacing feedback or suggestions with this phrase suggests you’re treading lightly, possibly out of fear of upsetting someone.
While the intention might be to show respect, it can make your subsequent statement sound overly cautious or even passive-aggressive.
What to say instead: Address the issue directly and professionally.
Instead: “Has anyone addressed the data discrepancies?”
By stating the matter straightforwardly, you show that your primary concern is resolving the issue.
It’s always possible to be direct without being confrontational, and this approach fosters a culture of clear, open communication.
The bottom line
In our journey of self-growth and development, it’s crucial to recognize that the power of our words goes beyond simple communication.
The phrases we habitually use can either amplify our confidence or unintentionally muffle our true potential.
By refining our language, we not only shape how others perceive us but also reinforce our self-belief and clarity of thought.
Remember, it’s not about putting on a facade of false confidence but genuinely expressing ourselves with assertiveness and authenticity.
So the next time you catch yourself using one of these phrases, pause, reframe, and let your words truly mirror the best version of yourself.