I recently heard a piece of communications advice for presenters that particularly resonated with me: “Replace minimizing language with confident phrases.”
What is minimizing language? Minimizing language refers to words or phrases that weaken a speaker’s message. Examples include the phrases “I feel,” “I just,” or “sort of like.” Adding marginalizing phrases at the end of a comment like, “This looks great, don’t you think?” and other passive phrases will cause you to lose credibility and your audience will take you less seriously. Minimizing language is that which undermines your message, your confidence and your qualifications.
According to the article, “Do You Sabotage Yourself by Using Weak Language?” women are more prone to using minimizing language. The article explains how women regularly feel the need to “water down” or hedge on their messages. With this new awareness, I have become conscious of how much I undermine myself with minimizing words and phrases. Too often, I throw “just” into a conversation – in person, email or text – for no sound reason; sometimes, I am insecure about sounding too aggressive. I regularly ask for reassurance with phrases such as “don’t you think?” to build my confidence (when often, I am already sure of what I’m saying). Along with many the young women I know, I consciously and subconsciously use minimizing language not just when presenting, but in all methods of communication.
It is essential to use confident language in conversations, especially while presenting or speaking in a business setting, to gain respect and trust. Phrases such as “I recommend,” “in my experience,” and “we will” reflect confidence and encourage your listeners to believe in you. Even if you don’t necessarily have the confidence yet, fake it ‘til you make it.
While it may be difficult to wean yourself away from this speech habit immediately, one of the best methods is to be conscious of minimizing language. While drafting an email, reread the text and remove any phrases or words that detract from your message. Instead of “just hoping to speak” to your boss, say you “would like” speak to him or her. If you are confident of an idea, speak like it. If you believe in yourself, make others believe in you, too. Language is a powerful tool and if you use it wisely, you can strengthen your image in the eyes of others.
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