The words we use and how we use them can have a great effect on how we come off to people.
Want to seem more confident?
Then stop using these 10 phrases!
1) “Uhmm, kinda, sorta…”
You absolutely do not want to fill your speeches up with meaningless noises and filler words like “um”, “ah”, and “sorta” and especially not several of them in a row.
They are generally perceived as being a sign of a lack of confidence and can get people writing you out of their heads.
There’s a reason they exist, of course. We all need to pause every now and then to collect our thoughts—it’s just that making it obvious to people that we’re doing it makes us look less confident than we actually are.
These words belong in casual conversation, and nowhere else. So if you have a habit of saying them, then work on getting rid of that habit.
2) “In my opinion…”
Phrases like “in my opinion…” and “I think…” primarily serve one purpose—placation. They’re meant to make you look less assertive and intimidating than you would be if you were a bit more direct.
You might feel pressured to say something like “in my opinion, we should turn left” to someone intimidating rather than simply say “we should turn left.”
Most of the time, people already know that anyone can be wrong anyways, so there’s no need to preface that fact.
You’ll simply come off as lacking a spine by what amounts to you preemptively trying to take no responsibility for your words because “it’s just my opinion.”
3) “Well actually, in case you didn’t know…”
This little phrase, tacked on to the beginning of any utterance whatsoever, comes off as simply obnoxious—like you’re obviously defensive or trying to prove a point.
It makes you sound like that snotty little know-it-all in class who would raise their hands and try to correct people over small, petty things just to show off.
While it’s quite aggressive, it’s the language of the truly insecure. It communicates to people that you’re short in confidence because you always have something to prove.
There are better ways to offer corrections than to come rushing in with a big “well ackshually…!” that does little but get people rolling their eyes and sighing in exasperation.
4) “Would you mind if…”
It’s polite to say things like “would you mind if…” or “would it be okay if…”
In fact, it’s something we’re often taught to remember as kids by those who don’t want to see us growing up rude.
But if you want to sound confident at all, then you should use them sparingly.
Be bold and forward.
Instead of saying “Would you mind if I go to the toilet?”, say “I have to go to the toilet.”
You’re not bothering people as much as you think, and most of all—you don’t need their permission for every little thing that you do.
5) “SORRY, does this make sense?”
This phrase makes it sound like you’re fishing for people’s approval, and tells people that you aren’t confident in what you’re talking about.
The insinuation is that you yourself think that the ideas you share aren’t coherent enough to be understood on the get go…and that you’re sorry you’re not good enough.
To sound more confident, you must believe that your delivery is perfectly adequate in itself, and that the onus is instead on the listener to perceive and understand.
If they don’t get it, it’s not because you expressed yourself wrong, but because they aren’t paying enough attention.
So instead of asking “does this make sense?” instead say something like “what are your thoughts?” and “tell me if you want any clarifications.”
6) “MAYBE we should…”
The problem with this phrase is right there in that first word—maybe.
Maybe you’re sure about what you’re talking about, maybe you’re not.
Maybe you want to go to the beach, maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to eat steak, maybe not.
It tells people right away that you’re not simply not sure or committed to whatever you want to say.
So whenever you feel tempted to say something like “maybe we should go to the beach” then think about why you even have maybe in there… and take it out. You can just say “Hey, we should go to the beach.” There’s no need for “maybe”.
7) “I JUST want to say that…”
“Just” is another extremely superfluous and pointless word.
Think about it—try to write a bunch of sentences like “I just want you to know” and “I just think that we should…” on a piece of paper, and then write those sentences again with the word “just” removed.
You will find that when you take out “just”, your words sound a lot more confident, and a lot more impactful.
This is because “just” is a word meant to cushion the blow. It’s like a mini-apology, almost like you take something like “yadda yadda but…” and condensed the whole “but” phrase into a single word.
8) “Hmm…I’m not sure, but…”
Phrases like “I’m not sure, but…” and “I’m sorry, but…” come off as incredibly insincere and ineffectual.
There’s a bit of unspoken wisdom in conversation, where if someone ever pulls out the “but”, you can pretty much ignore everything they said before that.
The reason for this is that pretty much everything before the “but” is just ass-kissing, sugar-coating, and buttering up the bread. An attempt to calm people down so that they won’t feel TOO mad when they say what they truly mean to say.
There’s a reason why people say things like “no buts!” after all.
9) “Geez, I can’t…”
Okay, so there’s a bit more nuance here than simply going “this phrase makes you look weak!”
If you truly can’t do something—maybe it’s out of your depth, or maybe you don’t have the time for it—then there’s no problem in asserting that you truly can’t do something.
The problem lies in the fact that most of the time, when people say they “can’t”, what they actually mean is that they think they’re not capable enough.
Most of the time, it’s because they’re afraid to try.
But it’s clear to everyone else that they actually can. And that’s where the problem lies.
So the next time you want to say “I can’t…” ask yourself whether you truly can’t do it, or if you’re simply scared to commit.
10) “If it’s okay…”
Once more a phrase that makes it clear you’re simply not that confident in yourself or the position you’ve taken.
It tells people that you aren’t sure where you stand, or what you’re allowed and not allowed to do. And when you’re in a position where there isn’t even any clear hierarchy—like, say, hanging out with friends—this phrase is you putting yourself below everyone else socially.
If you want to come off as confident, do not make yourself out to be too soft and submissive like this…because why should you? You deserve to exist and to act confident like everyone else!
Try to see if everyone else is alright with whatever you have in mind, but approach them like equals.
Something like “I want to go to the beach, what do you guys think?” is much bolder than “If it’s okay with all of you, we should probably go to the beach.”
It goes without saying that trying to sound more confident is more than just banning a few key words or phrases from your vocab.
Being a confident speaker is something that takes a fair bit of practice, and involves mastering not just your vocabulary, but also your control over your tone and even the way you arrange and organize your ideas in a conversation.
Eventually you’ll learn the rules behind this art and get to the point where you will just know when and how to bend and break them.
But for now, learning to avoid these phrases and understanding why they make you sound weak and ineffectual is a good start.