To start us off. The big one. Why are we apologizing so much? According to The Atlantic, "sorry" has become a word that "seems to say a lot but actually says very little". At this point, it is basically meaningless fluff in our vocabulary.
Do you think that adding in a "sorry" before critiquing your coworker's brief is really going to make them feel better? No. But it will hurt your credibility. Every time you have to apologize for what you are about to say, the room will immediately discredit the words coming out of your mouth. So it's time to say "sorry" to the word "sorry" and kick it out of your vocabulary.
2. "I just wanted to let you know"
Which of the following would you be more likely to say in an email?
"I just wanted to let you know that I read your report and..."
"I read your report and..."
Most of you reading this likely said the first one. Why? For me, I would be more likely to say the first one because it sounds less abrasive. However, it also sounds unconfident and apologetic. Should I be apologizing for reading a report? No. It's my job. Should I be apologizing for suggesting edits to said report? No. Because that is my job. Be confident. Be authoritative. Say what needs to be said and cut out the bull shit filler phrases.
3. "!" or emojis
If you were to look through my phone right now you would find sent text messages littered with exclamation points and emojis. It is rare that I send a text message without an emoji. And I bet for many of you, this is also the case. I personally feel that it is hard to communicate emotions via text messages and emails due to the lack of facial expressions. Thus, I feel the urge to add in a little ☺️ or 🙁 to ensure that the receiver of my message has absolutely no confusion about my intentions and mood.
And I will admit... you are not going to be able to convince me to stop using emojis or exclamation points in my texts. That being said, I hope I can convince all of you to stop using them in your professional emails. If you are sending a message to someone and saying "Could you please get this to me by the end of the day? Thanks! ☺️", you likely added in the "!" and "☺️" in order to soften up your request. But why?
As a reminder, you are at work to do a job. You do not need to lessen the blow of asking someone to accomplish their job. Of course, I am in no way saying be rude or over demanding. You should always treat your coworkers with the utmost respect and consideration. However, you do not need to sugarcoat your messages. Everyone at your office should understand that you are all expected to conduct yourselves in a professional manner. And that professional manner does not include smiley face emojis or hundreds of exclamation points!!!!!!!!! 😃😃😃😃😃😃 See my point?
4. "I was wondering..."
Why are you wondering? Isn't almost every question you ask because you are wondering something? So then why do you need to take the edge off of your question by prefacing it with useless fluff?
"I was wondering, are you going to be able to get me that report by the end of the day?"
"Are you going to be able to get me that report by the end of the day?"
What is the difference between those questions? The first question dances around the request— trying to ease in slowly in order to soften the blow. The second question is direct, authoritative, and confident.
Which woman do you want to be?
5. "I think..."
Now this one is a little difficult for me. Even as I'm typing this list, I find myself wanting to add in a quick "I personally think" before most of my sentences. And why am I doing this? After reflecting on it for awhile, I have decided that I add it in so that if someone disagrees with me, I am not wrong, I am just stating my personal opinion. And yes, at the end of the day, my opinion is my opinion. But you know what I've consistently noticed over and over again? People who are respected state their opinions as facts. They say it unapologetically and they are believed and admired for it. Meanwhile, I am afraid to state those things that I even know to be 100%, no uncertainty, TRUE facts. I have spent years letting other peoples' opinions sway my own. And why do I do this? It's not because they are necessarily smarter or more knowledgable than me. It is simply because those other people are more confident in their statements than I am.
Imagine you are working on a project and you ask your coworkers for their opinions. One responds "The blue looks better than the green" and the other responds "I personally think that the green looks better than the blue". Whose opinion are you going to value more? Your first coworker. Because they stated their opinion as an absolute fact, not an opinion.
Please. Just. STOP. Saying. "Just".
Why do we constantly add little "just"'s into our speech? Now that I'm aware of it, I find myself doing it everywhere. And I don't like it. We do it because we want to ensure that we aren't coming on too strong. "I just wanted to check and see...", "I'm just worried that...", "I was just coming over to ask...". These are all examples of us softening our message. But WHY? It almost makes us appear defensive and timid. As if we feel the need to explain why we are doing what we are doing. You do not need to apologize or defend yourself for doing your job.
"I wanted to check and see..."
"I'm worried that..."
"I was coming over to ask..."
These sentences are stronger and come from a woman who is confident in what she is doing. Be that woman.
7. "Does that make sense?"
Without realizing it, when you end a presentation with "does that make sense?" you are implying that you believe you could have been incoherent. You are suggesting that the listener has reason to not understand your message. If you go up, make a presentation, and knock it out of the park, there should be no question in your mind as to whether or not you made sense. So do not ask "does that make sense?" or "do you know what I mean?". Instead follow your statements with a self-assured "let me know if you have any questions" or "what are your thoughts?". This way, if there is any confusion, you are persuasively assuring the room that 1) you are able to clear the air because you are confident in what you are talking about and 2) likely the misinterpretation was because of the receiver of the message, not the deliverer. Because, girl, you know what you are doing!
So this one needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In my experience as a leader, the people I am working with tend to work harder when they feel genuine appreciation for their efforts. That being said, "thanks" has somewhat turned into "sorry" - it is overused and thus has lost its meaning.
The most common time I see "thanks" in a professional setting is at the end of an email. A quick little sign off as "thanks!", implying gratitude to the receiver, even though they are likely not doing you any favors. Women are raised in society with the expectation that they should be polite and grateful. They are raised to believe that they should expect and require less of others than men do.
Well guess what? I personally am done expecting less from others. And I am also done saying "thanks" when it is an empty phrase I'm simply adding in to water down an otherwise confident message. That being said, I will continue to say a heartfelt "thank you" when there is true thanks that deserves to be given. But thanking someone for reading an email or for finishing the work assigned to them? Not necessary.
So, to sum it up for you, these are just a few examples of words and phrases you can easily cut out of your vocabulary in order to sound more confident at work. Overall, this goes deeper than just eliminating a few buzzwords. It is about eliminating the mindset that you are less important than anyone else or that you need to apologize for your thoughts or your requests. Your opinion is valid. Your effort is valid. You are strong, you are confident, and you are worthy. Own the power you have and never let a few sticky words get in the way of your important message.
SHARE with your friends in the workplace!