‘If everything is important, nothing is.’ These are wise words I recently read by author, speaker and consultant, Patrick Lencioni. If this is thinking is correct, how do you know when the person who often says they’re ‘busy’ during your morning chat in the elevator, are truly busy?
In my case, if everything is to be described as ‘amazing’ is anything ever amazing? As I read Lencioni’s words, I felt something reach deep into my consciousness and tug hard at the nerves. It’s a feeling I get every time I say ‘amazing’ and all the other words I overuse.
This got me thinking about other words (or ‘softeners’ as I like to think of them) women often say in order to make a point come across as being less bossy, abrupt or abrasive for the sake of seeming ‘nice’.
We often say ‘I just wanted to let you know…’ rather than ‘Here’s want I think is important to share with you’ and ‘Actually, can I just say…’ instead of ‘I have an idea I’d like to put forward for discussion’. Why do we seek permission for having a valid contribution to make?
I’m beginning to notice all the qualifiers we use, for example, the permission word, ‘just’ and one other culprit in particular – ‘Sorry’. I saw this one when in the video for Pantene’s #ShineStrong campaign. Watching her like she was my long lost sister, I thought, What is she sorry for? Why express regret for asking a good question, speaking up when something’s wrong or when you put forward a brilliant idea? Pantene nailed it. She is us.
As she began to rephrase her questions she immediately became that confident, woman we all aspire to be in the workplace; Why? Because she was authentic to herself. She spoke her words with personality and intent, adapting flawlessly to each situation and environment.
Naturally, I wanted to be like her. Filling me with both positive vibes and sadness in utter unison, I began to think about why I hadn’t chosen my words as wisely sooner and why so many of us are still making this slip up.
This past year I’ve made a mindful effort to cut it out when I want to have a chat with someone at work or when I pipe up with an idea in meetings. Having said this, I’m still the first one to apologise without thinking when someone barges in to me on the tube – why is that? Even so, I can feel the difference it’s made on the way I express myself each day.
Here are some more words I’ve noticed can often undermine or discredit what you say next in a conversation.
You might recognise some of them but also have your own that are personal to you. The first step is to identify what are. Write them down and tackle them at a time.
One last invaluable tip I’ve learned is to slow down. Read your emails before sending them and if one of those pesky words creeps in, edit it out and re-read it before pressing that send button. You’ll immediately notice how rephrasing a sentence or snipping out a couple of words changes the tone of what you’re saying. Erase one word at a time and notice the impact it has on the way you feel and how others respond to you. Whether it takes 10 or 100 presentations or business meetings to reign it in, your new found clarity in communication could spur you on to further refine your skills.
Next time you don’t use one of these words, consider it a victory. You’ll be one step closer to being more confident, persuasive and engaging. I wish you luck on your journey to finding better ways of saying things in a voice that is authentically you. I’m enjoying every moment of mine.
Go on, share the qualifiers and softeners you’ve cut out and how you did it. What impact did it have?