If you want others to believe in you, you must first believe in yourself. You need to understand your valueand know how to relay it confidently. One significant way to show confidence is in the words you choose to use. The words you choose are essential to making you come across as either confident and knowledgeable or nervous and weak. 

As women in tech, it’s common to feel imposter syndrome. In fact, it’s more common for women to feel this than men. This is why it’s vital to be intentional with your words. Even if you’re not feeling your best, using specific words and phrases in the workplace over time can actually help boost your confidence. Take it from an introvert like me, the words you choose to say and how you say them matter. 

Here are six words/phrases that can make you look weak in the workplace and what you can use insteadto relay your value and assertiveness. As you remove these phrases from your vocabulary, you’ll notice a visible change in how those around you perceive you.

1. I’m sorry

This is a super common phrase that’s often used by women when they have feelings of inferiority. It’s so common you might not even be aware you’re doing it! Count the times you apologize for something throughout your day. Did you do something wrong? In most cases, no. Before using these words, consider if you actually have something to apologize for. Yes, it’s important to apologize when you are wrong, but more times than not, “I’m sorry” is used in the wrong context. 

2. I believe/feel/think that

Look at these terms as filler words. They diminish the importance of your statement. Try to simply remove these fillers and get straight to the point of what you’re trying to say. For example: “I believe this is an important issue we need to discuss” vs. “This is an important issue we need to discuss.” Which one sounds more confident? Which one are you more likely to listen to? 

3. Would you mind…?

Instead of asking, “would you mind?” try saying something like, “when you have a moment, please refer to….” This closes the window of allowing someone to say, “yes, I do mind.” Be assertive when you’re making a reasonable request. Even if you’re reaching out to your boss, there’s a difference between sounding polite and respectful and coming across as weak. 

4. Sorry to bother you/I hate to bother you

Right away, this makes you sound insecure about whatever it is you’re bringing up. Remember, you’re not bothering someone when something is important enough that it can’t wait. Writing an email is nothing to be sorry about. Instead of starting an email this way, try to get straight to the point of your message. For example, rather than “Sorry to bother you, but do you know when the client will be here?” try saying, “Do you know when the client will be here?” You can always end the email or question with something like, “Thank you for your time.” to keep it polite and professional. 

5. I’m not sure, but… 

Be sure of what you’re saying. Be confident when you’re answering or talking to someone. By starting out with “I’m not sure, but,” you’re immediately diminishing whatever follows. Don’t start emails or conversations with a negative connotation. Get straight to the facts of what you’re saying. Even if you’re unsure, instead of saying something like, “I’m not sure, but let me find out,” try saying, “Let me find out.”

6. If it’s alright with you

Don’t ask permission to make a request; it reduces the importance of whatever you’re about to ask. It also opens the opportunity for someone to respond with “no, it’s not alright with me,” immediately ending the conversation. Make the request, be straightforward with it, and then go from there. Rather than, “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to put in a request for…” try, “I’d like to put in a request for … let me know if this works.”

As you put these new phrases into practice, pay attention to what words and phrases other coworkers are using. Does the dialogue they’re using make them come across as confident or timid and unsure? How you come across in the workplace is what’s going to help you stand out and get ahead. We talk about this often in the DeveloHer Membership, if you haven’t checked it out yet – what are you waiting for? I created this supportive community to help hundreds of hard-working women in tech thrive and feel encouraged to pursue their goals!

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