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.
I would 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 .
In their article for WomensMedia, 8 Tips for Fearless Communication in the Workplace, authors Victoria Simon, PhD, and Holly Pedersen, PhD talk about the effect of adding tag lines to our sentences.
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.
Just a suggestion, ok?
I’m a list maker. Are you? I get tremendous satisfaction creating my to-do list and crossing off items as they are accomplished. In fact, I start every day with a new list that has everything I want to do for my business as well as some personal tasks. (Go to the bank, write a new blog, follow up with a coaching client, run to Trader Joes, pick up dry cleaning, etc.)
Now this time of year the list gets very complicated for not only does it all have of the above details, it also has holiday gifts for family and friends as well as a calendar full of social events. Trying to keep up with all the holiday madness on top of normal business is a challenge. I get stressed just thinking about it.
It dawned on me this morning as I was putting my list together for today that nowhere on my list is ME! And perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves this holiday season is to take care of ourselves as well as our loved ones. Have you even thought about this? What will you do for yourself this holiday season?
Here are some simple suggestions to maintain your sanity and well-being:
1. Learn to say “no”.
As many events begin to fill in your calendar, focus on your energy and make good decisions about which events to attend and which to decline.
2. Avoid the “what can I bring?” offer.
If you’re like me and love to bake and cook, you probably make this generous offer a lot. How can I turn down someone asking for my special chocolate cake? Refer to tip number one and offer to pick up something instead.
3. Outsource when appropriate.
It can be a great gift to yourself to hire someone to clean your house or do the dishes if you are having a large party. Think about ways to reserve your time and energy.
4. Keep up your exercise routine.
When we are consume more calories at one meal than we might in one month, we need to burn those calories! Plus exercise boosts are serotonin levels and helps us to maintain our energy.
5. Schedule some quiet time for yourself.
Whether or not you are into meditation, just being alone for a few minutes a day can be extremely relaxing. It helps us clarify our thoughts and focus on what’s important. Holidays can bring lots of stress as well as joy.
6. Focus on gratitude.
It’s a time to be with family and friends and a wonderful time to be grateful for all the wonderful people in our lives.
‘Tis the season to be jolly! It’s also the season for socializing. We are invited to many holiday events; some for business and some just to have fun and share some holiday cheer. The point is that we are meeting and greeting more people this time of year than any other. It’s a great networking opportunity.
Often these occasions are not about serious networking yet they do provide us with the chance to meet new people and enter into casual conversations about what we do. It’s the perfect time to network without the pressure to “sell” ourselves.
How do you enter into casual conversations with someone new?
Simply introduce yourself and ask the other person to tell you about them. People love to talk about themselves and this opens up the conversation in a casual way. Listen to what they have to say and learn about their business or position.
Offer the gift of connection.
Here is where the holiday giving spirit comes in. What can you do to help this person? Ask them! There may be opportunities for you to introduce them to other possible clients, partners, or referral sources.
When you are open and giving, it opens the door for others to reciprocate.
Take their business card and write on the back where you met them and who you want to introduce them to and make sure to follow up immediately.
Pay it forward and enjoy all your holiday events! You will be surprised how much you will receive in return.