Today’s world is a world of make believe; very little is real; most information, news, analysis is based more on perception than on fact, and fuelling this are the humungous forwards on Social media. And in this fragile environment fraught with uncertainty and overwhelming competition, and the need to be one better, the young manager is struggling to make a mark and make his presence felt, by his action and his communication. And it is here that he, conditioned by the algorithms of his upbringing, his growing up days, his many successes and failures (here it is the latter that dominates and tailors his actions and communications), that he tends to sell himself short, give face to his insecurities, his guilt, his suffocating sense of mediocrity, that gets reflected in hid day-to-day communication.
There are many ways to counter this situation, some of which require new learning, training, counseling and outside help, but there are a few, very meaningful and impacting that help paint a different picture by just recalibrating our speech and specially the words we use (or shouldn’t use) in communication to sound more confident and assertive than just compliant.
A few examples:
1.“What I’m trying to say is…”
The key word here is ‘trying’ which immediately conveys, doubt, uncertainty, and lack of belief or confidence in what is being said, as opposed to a statement that has strength and impacts the listener with force of conviction. Another drawback with this word is that it gives the listener a chance to complement, amplify or contradict what has been said thereby stealing the stage from the communicator by having the last word!! Trying is a weak verb that does not help build confidence in what you are saying, it is not definitive enough and it conveys your own uncertainty which gets easily transmitted to the listener.
True, in most conversations there is room for uncertainty in whatever anyone says, for nothing is absolute, but does one need to flaunt this uncertainty? Think about this and look for other more less damaging words of phrases to communicate the same thought.
Many options to “trying”, as in I KNOW, I am SURE, it is a FACT, and for the diplomat, you will AGREE…..
2. “I think…”
Think as opposed to KNOW. See the difference. We use the word think even though we are sure of what we are saying; it is just our upbringing that prohibits us from being assertive cause in our childhood we have been taught that being assertive is to being arrogant or even rude, being subservient is in many cultures, (specially ours) a sign of being polite……BUT NOT IN BUSINESS!.
As stated in the beginning of this piece, this is a make-believe world where a nerd (though skillful and adept with new and helpful technology) will come a poor second to the in-your-face macho. It is a world of perception, indeed. “I Think” is not denotes an unsureness, a possibility, or even a maybe. Easily replaced by “I read…” (and quote a credible publication), the statement inspires more confidence and additionally the speaker is now clothed in the garb of a well read and perhaps knowledgeable communicator; Likewise an option of “I heard… (and quote an acknowledged scholar or domain expert), again no harm done as the speaker is now associated with the exalted company of a knowledge person.
Not a very accommodating word for it at once conveys a contradiction to what the other is saying, a limiting word that does more to stall conversation than to encourage it. A word that is easier to the ear and less intimidating is “AND” or “ALSO” which still allows you to amplify, elaborate or even suggest an alternative option without directly opposing. Also regular usage of ‘but’ can brand you as one who is a habitual oppose, a disruptor, and soon you will find that you are being excluded from common discussions.
4. I want…
Immediately denotes a need, or when used authoritatively, a person who is bossy or demanding; in both cases a person who is a taker as against a giver. In this materialistic world we are all more takers than givers yet to be depicted as one is not a very pleasant experience. The same meaning can be also conveyed in a less “wanting” tone, a less “authoritative” way, simply by layering it with a positive thought like “You are definitely more knowledgeable than me so can you elaborate for me? (when asking for help) Or ‘You have performed the last assignment so well, I would like to see you go one better’ (as a boss).
5. I Need…
Similar to I want and indicating a lacking, which you cannot fulfill by yourself hence the plea/request/demand…it makes you sound a little incomplete in as much as you require the input of others.
6. I hope…
Rather uninspiring of confidence, a statement more of a prayer and leaving it to providence to provide the trigger which will make the task happen. A prayer/ wishful thinking? In any case a statement that conveys lack of confidence in handling or successfully completing the task. Here the option is to be assertive, “I know we will be able to complete in time”, “together we will beat them”. Positive, inspiring and confident.
7. Can you…
Akin to asking it denotes a dependency on the other person to fulfill the task that you yourself cannot do. It also presupposes that you KNOW that you are asking for a favor and that your request is going to impose on the other, by acceding to your request. To be more positive the same can be conveyed in a more direct way which does not denote a request, e.g. Instead of can you come over tomorrow….be more direct “come over tomorrow….”
8. When people say “Well done…”
We are taught to be humble and diffident when acknowledging our own success, so when we receive a compliment we are wont to be shy and respond with, ‘aw it was nothing”, or “actually I could have done it better and quicker…”, both defeatist responses which actually belittle our own effort. To sound in control and confident the response can be a more positive statement “I am glad I could complete it in time” or “I am very satisfied with my performance…”
9. I can’t…..
A weak response to what is being asked. Denotes inability, not wanting to do, or worse, don’t want to do! Better response is to sidetrack the request and replace it with “I’ll tell what I will do….” not negated the request and politely suggesting what is possible. You have at the same time conveyed that the request cannot be complied with YET suggested an option, a solution that is possible.
10. I guess…/ I suppose…
Both openings reflect unsureness, lack of certainty, also in a way convey your indifference to the topic at hand, maybe a lack of oneness with the matter, perhaps you don’t care, your own reluctance to be one with the issue. To sound confident sound positive and assertive not tentative, “for sure, I’ll be there…”, or “yes, I’ll definitely be part of your team…”
I’ve given the most common “weak’ words/verbs that are used in common day-to-day conversations that are best avoided to give you an appearance of a person in control, one who knows his mind, his limitations and how far you’ll go and conveys the same in a professional and polite yet firm manner. Being clear in your language and conveying your true feelings will make an impact on the listener and their perception. Clear and concise language will add to your persona and the way you are perceived by others.
So I will end by not saying “Try it…..” but a more positive, ‘Go for it…”.