Weak language

Undermining Ourselves: Weak Language and How to Overcome It

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Many of us, whether we realize it or not, undermine the impact of the things we say. Whether via email, an intimate chat or in a professional setting, many of us (I’m looking at you, ladies) have a tendency to weaken the potency of our ideas which, in turn, lessens the impact of our contributions.

Why do we do this? For starters, society often tells us that commanding a room or taking up space is unsexy, unfeminine, even bitchy. We’ve internalized the expectation that being a woman means to be ‘soft’, ‘maternal’ and should play a supportive role to our male counterparts.

Of course all of this is utter bullshit. But in order to flip the script, we need to take a close look at how we communicate and work to eradicate language and behaviors that undermine our message.

undermining ourselves

Communication is key when working through a project so it is important to be a good communicator at work. But how do you really communicate at work? We tend to be apologetic, look away as we speak, basically undermining ourselves with our words.

We can start taking small steps to recognize when we undermine ourselves with words. Here are the items we can eliminate from our vocabulary and replace it with something that is more powerful.

The following are 8 common ways that we undermine our thoughts and ideas–as well as 8 ways to kick them to the curb!

1. Eliminate “just” from your vocabulary.

undermining ourselves

“I’m just thinking…” “I just want to suggest…”…”Just a suggestion…” The word “just” implies doubt. It suggests uncertainty and takes the wind out of any concept or suggestion that you bring to the table. It can also sound like an excuse or an incoming statement that you may as well ignore.

Take a look at your emails. How often does the word “just” crop up? Now that it’s on your radar, you can work to identify and omit those unnecessary “justs”.

2. Disclaimers

When we insert disclaimers into the conversation, we are hinting at a lack of confidence. There is a sense of safety that disclaimers provide, and sometimes we don’t want to sound arrogant (“Clearly you’re the expert, but…”). However, by prefacing our thoughts with disclaimers, we are undermining the impact of our ideas.

Practice participating in conversations and email exchanges disclaimer-free. Remember, confidence is contagious!

3. No Apologies

undermining ourselves sorry

Like a nervous tick, a lot of us say “sorry” way more often than is necessary–or even makes sense. Though harmless on the surface, the word sorry is damaging in the following ways:

    • It undermines your authority and confidence
    • It can portray you as indecisive or even weak
    • Overusing sorry can diminish credibility and importance of a real and completely necessary apology. Reserve your sorrys for when there is a genuine need!

Common, unnecessary sorrys:

    • “Sorry, can you repeat that?”
    • “I’m sorry, but I have to go.”
    • “I’m sorry, but I disagree.”

4. Put ‘actually’ on the no-fly list

The word ‘actually’ in another frequent filler word that implies a sense of surprise around your statement. It’s an obvious addition that just doesn’t need to be said. For instance, “I actually have a question…” “I actually want to add something to the list…”. Again, using the word ‘actually’ diminishes the power of your statement.

5. Statements that sound like questions

undermining ourselves

Ladies, this is another one that a lot of us are guilty of. When we raise the pitch of our voice at the end of a sentence, that statement then becomes closer to a question. When we do this our words become increasingly passive and lose their power as a result.

6. Embrace the discomfort of silence.

undermining ourselves silence

Silence can feel really uncomfortable, especially in a professional setting. But remember: it isn’t your job to fill the space for the sake of everyone else’s comfort. When we rush through presentations or talk just for the sake of filling the void, this misbehavior can be misconstrued as insecurity. When we take the time to think before we speak, settling in to brief pauses between sentences, we give the listener a chance to take in the information and instill a sense of controlled confidence.

7. Be clear and more importantly be you

While all of the above are worth noticing and working on, we also know that Rome wasn’t built in a day; making a shift from using passive language to becoming more focused and assertive is going to take time, practice and vigilance.

Additionally, you need to remain true to yourself and your unique communication style. Always remain true to yourself and to the hard work that you put out into the world. Your unique approach and genuine qualities will ultimately make the most impact in the end.


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