Currently, I am the youngest person working with the TFD team. This means a few different things. One of them is that my situation is sometimes less relatable to readers, as I found out (the hard way) when I received a ton of criticism the other day following a post a wrote about my parents helping me financially. Another very important one is that I am, at times, very intimidated by what is going on around me.
This is not at all to say that Chelsea, Lauren, and everyone else on the TFD team haven’t been so completely welcoming and helpful to me as I navigate this new part of my life. I am so eternally grateful for all they are doing to help me learn and guide me into this industry that I have had no previous experience with. However, I find myself sometimes struggling with great insecurities in regard to my age and experience on the subject matter we write on here at TFD.
This is a personal struggle that I have always dealt with. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life where I felt entirely comfortable with my intelligence, or saw myself as a particularly valuable part of any team I was working with. With that type of early 20-something insecurity comes something I’m not entirely proud of: incessant apology and justification for my ideas, thoughts, and actions.
For every unnecessary “I’m sorry,” or uncomfortable “I feel like…” I’ve uttered to bosses past, I have known that there were better, stronger ways to express myself.
Have I had the confidence to remember that in the moment? Heck no!
That is why earlier this week, when I came across this article, it really resonated with me. The Forbes article written by Melody Wilding points out weak-sounding words and phrases we use in the work environment every day that may prevent us from being taken as seriously as we should be taken.
This is especially important for women. “Women’s brains are naturally tuned for emotional intelligence and specialized for masterful communication,” says Wilding.
(But we already knew that, right? We are freaking brilliant.)
I’m a communication student, and can definitely attest to the fact that women are often more successful in competent interpersonal communication. Of women’s ability communicate so effectively within interpersonal relationships, Wilding points out that “It also means that women in particular are more likely to behave in such a way to preserve relationships, which in spoken communication may sometimes be misconstrued to convey a lack of authority and low confidence.”
Does this mean all women are speaking in a way that conveys a lack of confidence? Not at all!
Did it make me realize, at the very least, how much I do that myself? Heck yes!
Of the seven different words Wilding mentioned in her article, a few really stuck out to me. One of these was a word I use probably a million times per day: “just.”
“This word minimizes the power of your statements and can make you seem defensive or even apologetic,” says Wilding.
I know that personally, this is a word I overuse. I “just” wanted to ask a question. I “just” was thinking about this. I “just” wanted to say something. Throwing the word “just” into every statement I make or question I ask has always been my favorite way of reminding everyone that I am absurdly concerned with making sure no one is bothered/annoyed/offended by what I’m saying. But Wilding is absolutely right; it does weaken my statements by reminding everyone I’m speaking to of how deeply apologetic I am for having a thought. Her advice for eliminating the word from your vocab is simple: “Delete it.”
Ever since I read the article, I have become hyperaware of how often I toss the word “just” into my sentence as a “better safe than sorry” kind of deal. Being aware of how often I use it is already helping me to cut back.
Another important weak work phrase Wilding mentioned is “I can’t.” I had a particularly impactful professor a few semesters back give a passionate lecture on how he does not believe “I can’t” is a phrase that anyone should ever actually use. He went on to talk about how saying you “can’t” do something is nothing more than a way of covering your ass in the event that you are unable to effectively do the thing you are speaking of. It is nothing more than a way to deny your autonomy and absolve yourself of all responsibility over your life – which is not only annoying to others, but potentially emotionally damaging to yourself.
Wilding says the same type of thing: “‘Can’t’ is passive, whereas saying you ‘won’t’ do something is active.”
Active and decisive language is more likely to convey confidence in decisions and responsibility for actions, and help you be taken more seriously. Her advice to stop this habit is the same as my professor’s advice: don’t say “I can’t.” Instead, say “I won’t.” Instead of saying “I can’t do that, because I have to do this,” say “I won’t do that, because right now I am doing this.” Own your statements and your actions and your choices, and you will find yourself more confident, and subsequently more respected.
The other five phrases, all equally important to take a look at when creating the strongest work vocabulary possible, are pointed out and elaborated on in the article. There are, of course, other factors that contribute greatly to your confidence as well as success in the work environment. However, for me, someone who has the tendency to convey their deepest insecurities through nonverbal cues and language subtleties, eliminating these weak phrases at the very least from Work Mary’s vocabulary is a good place to start.
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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