You might assume that communicating is as natural as breathing since most of us don’t recall learning how to talk. But not everyone manages to get their message across effectively. Research shows that many women are unintentionally sabotaging themselves by using words that make them sound incompetent.
A recent Forbes article shows that using “weak” and apologetic language prevents some women from getting ahead in the workplace. Using words like “just”, “I feel” and “sorry” reduce your credibility because they make you sound submissive.
Marija Ruygrok, Managing Director at Accents, a voice and communication skills training company in Johannesburg, says the way you speak and the words you use tell people a lot about you.
“People make judgement calls based not only on what we look like, but certainly also by how we sound and the words we choose,” she explains.
Ruygrok adds that fillers such as “okay”, “uhm”, “sorry”, and tag questions such as “you know what I mean?” create a negative perception.
“Fillers and hesitation, and words that don’t really contribute greatly to the conversation give a sense that the person is unsure. The perception could be that they are not committed to what they are talking about, and that they are dithering and unclear about what they think or want to say,” she says.
Repeating certain words also makes the speaker sound uncertain and less confident.
The phenomenon is so prevalent that Google created a plugin for its email platform, Gmail, that identifies and underlines apologetic language. The plug in called Just Not Sorry aims to help the writer deliver a more concise and authoritative email.
Ruygrok says there are ways to change the way you communicate and eliminate apologetic language from your speech. Recognising that you might be using these words is the first step towards correcting yourself.
“A lot of people are not aware of the irritating phrases, words and fillers they use,” she says.
She suggests recording yourself in conversation to learn where you fall short. Ruygrok also recommends slowing down, breathing, which will give you a clearer sense of what you want to communicate.
“The slowing down is very important because the rushing ahead, even in terms of thought, takes you out of the present conversation,” she concludes.