You wouldn’t be where you are if you weren’t confident.
Yet many women in leadership say things that undermine their true confidence – and potentially hurt their credibility.
I hate to bother you, but …
Would it be ok if …?
If it’s alright with you …
They’re polite. You are, too. That’s why you use them.
But those phrases are weak. And you aren’t.
You want your employees, your colleagues and your boss to believe in you, trust your skills and value your knowledge.
“The words you choose will help you exude confidence,” says business coach Marla Tabaka, “or make you look weak. Never underestimate the power of words.”
Here are nine phrases you want to avoid, plus better ways to use words to show your confidence.
1. I hate to bother you, but …
When the matter at hand is important enough that it can’t wait, then you need to address it accordingly. You do need to interrupt, and you can’t hate to do it – even though you might hate the discomfort of the subject and/or the response you’ll receive.
Maintain control of the situation and conversation with a phrase like this: “I’d like to discuss something with you.”
2. Would it be OK if …?
If you ask for permission to make a request, you immediately reduce the importance of what you need or want. Plus, the person you’re asking is open to say, “No, it’s not OK,” and you’re shut out.
When you need to make a reasonable request, you want to do it with authority. Say, “Can I have …?” “Will you …?” “How can we …?”
3. If it’s all right with you …
If a decision has been made, and something must happen that affects others, don’t couch it. This phrase gives them the opportunity to say, “It’s not all right,” when you know it has to be all right.
You’re best to lay out the facts of what’s been decided and how it will affect others. Say, “We have done this …, and we need you to …” Or, “I’ve decided to …, and here’s how you’ll be affected.”
4. I just …
That one word – just – diminishes everything else you say: “I just have to …” “I just need a minute.”
When you have a statement, suggestion, or concern, say it with confidence: “I have to …” “I need one minute.”
5. I’m worried
People who are not confident worry too much – and say it too often. When you express worry, you suggest that you have no idea what the outcome will be, aren’t willing to take some control of the outcome, or spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing.
Realistically women leaders will be worried from time to time – and need to express it. Better said: “I have some concerns about … and I’d like to work on some solutions.”
6. I guess …
In most situations, leaders should not be guessing. You made it to where you are by learning and using your skills and knowledge to make good decisions. You don’t want to undermine that by starting sentences and ideas with, “I guess …”
You may not always know the best or right thing to do, but you do know how to move in that direction. So focus on the next step: “What we need to do now is …” “We can do this next …” “For now, I will …”
7. I’m sorry
There are only a few reasons to use this phrase – when you need to admit you made a mistake or you’ve injured others or a situation. But many people overuse this phrase when they have feelings of inferiority, such as when they bump into someone or need to interrupt. In those situations, an “excuse me” is perfectly appropriate.
Apologize when you’re truly sorry. Otherwise, use, “Excuse me,” “May I …” or “Thank you.”
8. I believe …
“I believe,” “I think” and “I feel” are filler words that suggest you aren’t convinced of your own thoughts. They can make you sound inexperience and unprepared.
Instead, say exactly what you know and mean: “This is an important issue to explore.” “We need to act immediately.” “Our systems are ready to go.” “We need to hold off until we know more.”
9. I’ll try
Yes, women leaders should try new things (and encourage their employees to do it). So be the first to say you’ll try something new. But don’t say “I’ll try” when tasked with a goal. That suggests you aren’t willing to do what needs to be done.
When faced with a challenging situation, say, “I can do this …, and I have ideas on how to work on …” Or “I will …, and then I’ll focus on …”