Words are more powerful than you may think. Do you know this situation when you have prepared for that meeting for days and you know you are right but somehow your colleagues and bosses do not get your point or take you serious? It might actually go back to your communication style. We as women in general often look for harmony and want to come across as “nice”. Hence, our communication style is much softer than men. Do not get me wrong here, I think most of the time this is an advantage. However, sometimes, we undermine ourselves by using certain words or expressions. Let me tell you about them and what you can do:
1. Did I/This Answer Your Question?
When you are done answering a question, you have already said everything you need to say about it. By asking your counterpart “did I answer your question?”, you will come across as if you are unsure about the answer and that there is something missing (and usually there is not).
2. I Am no Expert But …
As women we often act very humble and think that there is always somebody who is working harder than us, or is better at his/her job or knows better. This is probably true. But you do not need to stress in a meeting where you want to build alliances that you are not the expert. Probably nobody in the room is. And probably there is no need to be an expert. It is about your effort to achieve the common goal and the team work.
3. Do I/does this Make Sense?
This is similar to “did I answer your question?” but I think it is even worse. “Do I make sense” totally undermines your effort. I think there is nothing more to add here, please just do not use it. You will use it against yourself.
I caught myself sending emails with “I just wanted to ask …” or saying in meetings “I just think that …”. “Just” is a very small word but with a big impact. It makes your opinion and achievements appear really small.
“I actually think that …” is much weaker than “I think that …”. In the next meeting, observe your mail colleagues and see how often they use the word “actually”. Probably much less than you do. Therefore, they appear much more confident.
6. Apologizing before Stating Your Opinion
“I am sorry but I have to disagree.” Stop being sorry! If you disagree, you disagree. There is no need to apologize if you have a different opinion. This does not mean that you are not being polite.
7. I Am not Entirely Sure But…
Well, I could ask here who is ever entirely sure about anything? If you have a certain argument and you are confident about it, there is no need to say that you are not entirely sure. You will never be 100% sure and it will be very tough for you to build alliances if people think that you are not sure about it yourself.
I think I know what you might think now: If I stop using these phrases, I will come across as aggressive. This was the first thing I was worried about as well when I started to change my communication habits. But there is one simple piece of advice. If your overall way of communicating is pleasant and nice, you will not. You can weave in some nice phrases or some humour (while talking, humour can go wrong in written correspondence).
When I decided to change my way of communication, I identified the words and phrases that undermined my successes and wrote them down in my diary. Every day, I checked if I successfully avoided them. There are no limits to your creativity, you can use sticky notes or your phone alarm.
What are expressions you use and that might undermine your achievements? Let me know, I look forward to hearing about them and discussing them further!