There are certain phrases we pick up at a young age that disempower us.
If you’re using any of the following phrases, I want to warn you:
It’s making you sound weak and you need to stop.
Let’s take a look.
1) “I think…”
Thinking is great. We should all think more and practice critical thinking.
But when you pepper “I think” into conversations it makes you sound unsure and low-confidence.
For example, note the difference between the two following sentences:
“John is a criminal, I think. I don’t really trust him, I think you shouldn’t either, maybe. Just my opinion.”
“John has been in jail. I don’t trust him at all and neither should you.”
The first makes you sound scared to rustle any feathers or cause an issue. The second is just stating what you’ve heard about John instead of beating around the bush.
2) “It’s just…”
Saying “it’s just” in a sentence is like injecting a tranquilizer into an interaction.
It introduces something that’s also important or worth saying but pretends to be something small.
“It’s just” is almost always a sneaky way of disagreeing with someone or wanting to change the terms of something but done in a low-confidence, backdoor way.
For example: “It’s just that I don’t really feel that well, plus Jenny told me I wouldn’t have to come into work today, anyway.”
You can almost hear the whiny tone from here.
3) “I guess…”
This has become a really common phrase to hear when people talk.
It makes you sound weak and hesitant.
Instead of just saying what you want to or asking what you want to ask, you pepper in “I guess” as a kind of fishing lure.
It sounds really sketchy, and the fact that many people use it doesn’t really lesson how much this saps people’s confidence on a subconscious level when they hear it coming from you.
“Yeah, so that’s my business proposal. It’s just another idea for making money, I guess, I dunno.”
Contrast that with:
“This is my business proposal. It’s going to be massively profitable and change the world.”
I’d go with proposal number two, what about you?
4) “When you have time…”
When making a request it’s always good to be polite.
However when you use “when you have time,” it is self-deprecating.
It makes it clear that you are OK with being put secondary or being delayed if it’s inconvenient for somebody to get to something sooner.
Instead of saying “when you have time,” try “at your earliest convenience” in e-mails and “as soon as possible” in a conversation.
Compare the two emergency room scenarios:
“Excuse me, doctor, could you look at my broken leg when you have time?”
“Excuse me doctor, can you look at my broken leg as soon as possible?”
5) “You know what I mean?”
Asking if somebody gets what you mean makes you sound weak.
There’s no two ways about it: this is almost always a confidence-lowering phrase.
If you literally want to ask if folks understand what you said, ask “do you understand what I’m saying,” or something more literal.
Asking people to guess what you mean can be frustrating for them and also show a lack of confidence in yourself.
Trust that if somebody doesn’t know what you mean they will ask!
6) “It’s just my opinion, but…”
Saying that something is just your opinion is a very diluting phrase.
It takes whatever you just said or are about to say and waters it down.
You indicate that you’re uncomfortable with disagreement or being disapproved of, so you add in that it’s only your opinion to soften whatever is being said.
“That politician is so corrupt. I strongly dislike their policies and decisions, but that’s just my opinion.”
As opposed to:
“I strongly oppose that politician. They are corrupt and awful.”
7) “For what it’s worth.”
If you say something and add “for what it’s worth” you’re also basically just throwing your words into the wind.
“For what it’s worth, you didn’t deserve to have your wife leave you like that.”
I mean, if you said it then it is clearly worth at least something, at least to you.
Try “you didn’t deserve to have your wife leave you like that,” or “you’ve been through a lot that you didn’t deserve.”
Let’s be honest:
There are times when “for what it’s worth” can be a nice kind of musing thing to say.
But most of the time it’s useless filler that just backs away from what you’re saying so you can pretend you didn’t mean it more easily.
8) “What I meant to say…”
“What I meant to say” is the conversational equivalent of white out.
If you meant to say something other than what you said, then:
- Say it right the first time
- Say you misspoke and correct yourself instead of bringing your intention into it.
When you indicate that you often don’t say what you intend to say, it makes people a bit nervous.
They start putting less stock in what you say after that point.
9) “I sort of agree, but…”
Saying that you sort of agree with someone is just saying you’re scared to disagree.
If you partly do agree for real, then say “here’s where I agree, and here’s where I disagree.”
Saying you sort of agree is more like saying that you don’t agree but you’d rather not argue.
If you don’t want to argue just say “I disagree but I don’t want to argue.”
Stop beating around the bush!
10) “It’s sort of…”
If something is a certain way or you perceive it a certain way, say that.
Using “sort of” is very low confidence and saps people’s belief in what you’re saying.
Compare the two following statements.
“It’s sort of rude how Uncle Paul didn’t come to Thanksgiving and never even answered our invitation.”
“It’s rude that Paul didn’t answer our Thanksgiving invitation.”
The second is far more direct and doesn’t try to soften the blow. Rude is rude, after all.
11) “I dunno, like, uh, um, err, meh, hmm…”
All of the above filler words and phrases make you sound weak, confused and low confidence.
If you’re unsure what to say or forget something, just pause.
Say “one moment.”
Don’t say “uhh” and “err” and “I dunno, it’s just…”
These are all filler phrases and words that make the worst possible impression and cause people to come across as doddering dullards.
Powerful speech is as much about the way you speak as what you say.
But eliminating the above phrases will go a long way to making you come across as empowered, confident and high-value.
Which you are!
Work on speaking clearly and projecting your voice while using phrases that show integrity and confidence.