In the real world, I’m in an office from 9 to 5 as a regular worker bee. And lately, I’ve noticed something surprising that undermines me at work (and in life) – my word choices.
Now, I’m not talking about swearing (much to my mother’s chagrin, I’m sure). I’m talking about the seemingly innocuous words that seep into my daily speech patterns and can make anyone appear unsure or lacking in confidence. And, I’d wager that you use them too.
Think about it, you’re about to type an email to someone to check in on a project. Generally, I’d be tempted to write something like:
I just wanted to check in with you about…
Or if I’m talking about a new fact I picked up:
I was reading this weird/random article and learned…
It’s kind of frustrating..
I think maybe you should perhaps not…
Yeah, you get the point. Softening statements to seem less demanding or just to soften for no real reason other than habit. It’s a dangerous habit, as I’m discounting thoughts, facts, and statements as I say them. Yep, super helpful. While I’m at it, I might as well sink back into my chair and try to take up as little space as possible at the table (and yes, I have done that too).
The dangerous thing is that people pick up on this soft and squishy language. While there is a place for the soft words (just, I think, kind of, weird), their overuse can be to your detriment. You can – through your own words – undermine yourself and this can impact other people’s perception of you or your thoughts.
So, what’s the quick fix? On email, it’s easy – reread your text and see where you can take out at least some of the soft words. Speaking…well, that’s harder. I’d say, the first step is to slow down and be aware of phrasing. You can collect your thoughts before speaking and edit out the unnecessary soft words. Or, you can amend statements after you say them: “…actually, it’s not kind of frustrating. It is frustrating.” Speech is more of a process (which I still work on), but writing can be fixed right away.
So get to it! Stop the extra justs to make sentences and thoughts softer than they need to be. Remember, sometimes extra words serve no point (or worse, they undermine what you’re trying to say). To borrow a lovely quote I learned from a Revisionist History podcast episode: “strong verbs, short sentences.”