10 Phrases that Can Make You Seem Unconfident at Work

Updated 11/28/18

Like my incessant use of filler words like "um" and "like," my tendency to filter any and all professional requests through an apology is practically second nature. Whether this is a matter of personal style or a result of the social conditioning we experience as young girls and as women (I assume it's a combination of both), I've resolved to eradicate this undermining language from my professional lexicon (and personal, but that's another story).

Aside from the fact that others are more likely to listen to your ideas if you present them confidently, assertiveness is at the crux of self-esteem and respect. "Assertiveness is all about asking for what you want in a manner that respects others," explains Psychology Today. "Assertive people don't shy away from defending their points of view or goals or from trying to influence others. [It's about] reacting to positive and negative emotions without aggression or resorting to passivity."

While "please," "thank you," "excuse me," and the like are simply a show of good manners, other seemingly innocuous phrases can undermine your assertiveness—and by extension, confidence—in the workplace. In that vein, I tapped my colleagues to determine the most common words and phrases that seem to convey a lack of confidence at work (whether intentional or not). While oftentimes, these phrases are used in an effort to give off an amiable impression, they're worth keeping in mind when attending a brainstorm, writing up an email, or giving an important presentation:

1. Prefacing an idea with, "This might sound dumb," or "Someone may have said this already, but…"

2. Saying "Sorry" before and after everything.

3. Introducing an opinion with "I feel" or "I think."

4. Adding "Kind of" or "I guess" to soften an opinion or idea.

5. Ending constructive criticism with "Just something to keep in mind."

6. "Sorry to bother you, but…" when asking for a favor or following up on a request.

7. Ending a request with, "Is that okay?"

8. Getting overly wordy, for example: "Would you by any chance be able to look this over when you get a second?”

9. Adding "I don't know," "or something like that," or "do you know what I mean?" to the end of an idea.

10. Prefacing a thought or idea with "maybe."

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