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8 Common Words in Conversations That Make People Sound Less Confident

8 Common Words in Conversations That Make People Sound Less Confident

One way confidence is judged is by an individual’s behavior, especially verbal behavior. That’s according to Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Professor Tannen has been researching the influence of linguistic style on conversations and human relationships since 1974. She has also studied how ways of speaking learned in childhood affect judgments of competence and confidence in the workplace for several years.

How we speak, she says, determines who gets heard, who gets credit, and what gets done. Tannen gives the following example: one publishing company executive said, “I’m hiring a new manager. I’m going to put him in charge of my marketing division,” as if he owned the corporation. In stark contrast, women were saying “we” when referring to work they alone had done. One woman explained that it would sound too self-promoting to claim credit in an obvious way by saying, “I did this.” Yet she expected—sometimes vainly—that others would know it was her work and would give her the credit.

You might think that your way of speaking is natural, but the words you use and how you use them can determine how your confidence is judged. While there is no such thing as right or wrong words—results vary depending on the context—some common words we use in conversation really just put us at a disadvantage because they are weak and make us seem less confident.

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1. “Um” and “Ah”

Many people throw in an “um” whenever they are temporarily lost for words. But there is a reason you won’t hear these crutch words, as they are known in public speaking, in news bulletins and TV shows. “Um”s and “Ah”s make people seem not only less confident, but also dumb. If you are guilty of this habit, stop it. Instead, take a brief pause when you are temporarily lost for words.

2. “Like” and “You know”

Some other people can’t go three sentences without appending a “like” to the beginning of a sentence. This is not a good if you want people to take what you say seriously. “Like” and “You know” are close cousins to crutch words. They make you look silly and incompetent when overused.

3. “Just”

Saying things like, “Just wanted to ask a question” or “Just checking in” weakens your statements and waters down your requests. You seem less sure of yourself and less confident than you probably are. Drop the extra word and speak like a boss. Talk like you know what you want.

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4. “Kind Of”

The words “kind of” or “sort of” used in conversations make you come across as vague and ambiguous. You look like you have no idea what’s going on or are afraid of committing. Unless you want people to think you are timid or clueless of what’s going on, don’t misuse these words.

5. “Hopefully”

If you are always saying “hopefully” to everything in conversation or that you’ll hopefully get something done, you’re actually telling people that you don’t have control over situations. This can backfire on you because it can communicate that you are weak, powerless or even unreliable.

6. “Actually”

“Actually” has become the new “basically” or “literally.” People use it even where it doesn’t stylistically make sense. For example, the phrase “but actually” is terribly misused. This particular usage is often unnecessary (fluff) and can make you seem uninformed and pitiful.

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7. “Sorry”

99% of the times people use the word “sorry” in conversations where no apology is necessary. Saying things like, “Sorry, can you come visit me?” or “Sorry, can I take you out?” can be misinterpreted to mean you’re not confident. Drop the “sorry” and say what you mean confidently. If you want to apologize for something, say sorry like you really mean it.

8. F-bomb

Dropping the occasional f-bomb (curse words) can add emphasis to what you are saying. But, often curse words are unnecessary and plain offensive. They suggest you are insecure about what is being discussed or are simply a rude and brutish individual. Cut curse words from your conversations.

Possible solution for glitches in conversation

Admittedly, getting rid of these communication glitches is not easy. The mistakes creep into your conversations before you realize it. However, a technique you can use to curb these errors (suggested by improvement thinkers like Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins, and also bloggers like Scott H. Young) is to keep a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you make a communication blunder (say, using um’s and ah’s), switch the rubber band onto your opposite wrist. If you can go seven days with the band staying on the same wrist, you’re making progress.

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Featured photo credit: polandeze via flickr.com

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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