Confidence is a common topic my clients bring to coaching. Anyone working on it knows that confidence is not a simple binary thing. It shows up as a part of a complex set of behavior that stems from inside more than outside. Our word choices often can hinder how confident we appear. “Think” is one such word that got my attention lately.
The ability to think – about complex problems, gives us an edge as knowledge workers. Ironically overuse of the word may not serve as much. This tendency is common among women and people who are more analytical. One of my clients, let’s call her Tatyana, is working on being more assertive and confident. In a recent session, I noticed she was saying like this: “I think the project is going well, “I think I achieved all my goals.” “I think my team did a great job.”
What is wrong in is these sentences? Not much, if you are coming purely from the literal meaning of the sentence. Interestingly, humans are more complicated than that. Our emotions, biases make meaning much before it reaches our cognitive processor. Here is a quick experiment. Try the same sentences without the word “think.”
“I think the project is going well “ VS “The project is going well.”
“I think I achieved most of my goals” VS “I achieved most of my goals”
“I think my team did a great job” VS “My team did a great job”
Notice the subtle changes in the way you perceive the message as a listener. In the workplace, we are overloaded with millions of data every moment. Our brain makes such meanings as a short cut and eventually creates a perception about a person. Can you imagine what happens when Tatiyana is working so hard to show up as a competent and confident leader while overusing think in her vocabulary?
Tatiyana and I dug deeper on her tendency to overuse this word. After some introspection, she got an insight, “It gives me a sense of safety that I am not too opinionated. I guess I am not courageous enough to own my statement. I am looking for validation.”
Think is one of many such words that undermine our message and the overall perception. According to this article on FastCompany, Six Verbs That Make You Sound Weak (No Matter Your Job Title),
Overusing certain weak verbs can make you sound weaker, too. They can undercut your ability to inspire others and suggest to listeners–from top executives and colleagues to your direct reports–that you aren’t really sure of yourself. So while there’s certainly room for uncertainty in any workplace, you might want to trim these verbs from your vocabulary.
One of my clients is working on her overuse of “but” by replacing it with “and.” Word choice is a symptom. Trying to fix the symptom without understanding the root causes may not make sustainable change. The root cause for this client is that she focuses more on the problems instead of the overall progress. She didn’t realize that in a big meeting, people want to know the overall progress before delving into the problem areas.
Confidence is not a once and done thing. Cheerleading style of rah-rah, “be confident”, “believe in yourself”, doesn’t go too far. Coaching digs deeper into our own unique blockers. That day Tatiyana got an insight into how her own limiting belief was getting in the way of showing up more confident.
The Hemingway app is a very useful tool to detect weak verbs and other ineffective words
Are you a leader in the High-tech? Are you a High Performing individual? Ready to take your career to the next level? Want to get in touch with your passion? I am an executive coach with a background in technology. Send me a note to claim your 30-min phone session free of charge. – Sharmin
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