The ability to communicate effectively and confidently has a dramatic effect on our ability to advance our careers. Yet many of us fall into the trap of using weak language that sabotages our efforts to present ourselves with authority and confidence.
Iwould just like to say that I may not know as much as some of the communication experts out there, but I feel that women undermine their credibility time and time again by using minimizing language.
This one sentence says it all! By using the words “just”, “I feel”, and stating that I may not have as much expertise as perhaps other do, I have reduced my credibility to almost zero! How many times have you heard women communicate this way? How many times have you yourself used this type of minimizing language?
I had the pleasure a couple of years ago of attending a summer course at Yale Law School that prepares women to run for political office. One faculty member, a political strategist, stood up to address the students and prefaced her presentation with, “Before I begin, I just have a few handouts for you”. Her credentials were so impressive. Why did she seem to be apologetic for her work? The use of the word “just” was not only unnecessary but it undermined the credibility of this amazing woman who has run national campaigns.
I’m convinced that even if we take one small step and eliminate the word “just” from our communication, we would see a huge difference in the way we are perceived in the workplace. I am amazed how much I use this word unnecessarily and unconsciously. “I’m just checking in to see…”. “I just want you to know”. “I just called because..” . My new awareness of the impact of this one word has now forced me to carefully choose my words in order to reflect more confidence.
The Harvard Business Review article, Replace Meaningless Words with Meaningful Ones,by Jerry Weissman advises us to replace weak, meaningless words with stronger ones. He talks about how a simple word replacement can change the impact of our overall communication.
Weissman advices us to replace the weak words “I think”, “I believe”, and “I feel”, for stronger options such as “I’m confident”, “I’m convinced”, “I expect”. These simple replacements can make a difference in how our message is perceived .
Women have a tendency to use ‘weak’ language that serves to water down their message. One example of weak language is using tag lines at the end of sentences. Examples of these are: “This is a great angle, don’t you think?” and “Our department is doing well, isn’t it?” A tag line at the end of a sentence weakens the statement being made as well as the authority of the speaker. It communicates that the speaker is not completely confident so must ask for reassurance.
They go on to say,
Courage is the foundation of successful communication – and successful communication is the foundation of great achievement. Is it difficult to strive for respect above being liked, or to avoid weak language so that people hear your message more clearly? Yes. Does fearless communication mean that you have to be aggressive, even masculine, at work? Absolutely not! Ideally, the kind of strength you will develop in your communication will allow you to be direct and assertive and will create an environment for others to feel this freedom as well. Be yourself, be authentic and communicate fearlessly.
Be aware of your own use of weak language and eliminate and/or replace the words and phrases that have a negative impact on your professional image and reputation.
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