How to remove self-sabotaging language for greater impact
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You cannot, not communicate so you cannot, not brand yourself.

You may need to read that twice.

The point is every time we communicate, we are creating an impression

  • When you pick up the phone — it’s brand
  • When you attend a Zoom session — it’s brand
  • When you write an email — it’s brand
  • When you post a comment — it’s brand
  • When you write a blog — it’s brand!

How you speak to people, body language, behaviours and the written word are all creating an impression of the person you are, right or wrong, so it’s hugely important to ensure the message you are landing and the perception you are creating is the one you want to create

Women worry a lot about being confident or at least adopting the appearance of being confident but to sound positive, assertive and confident you need to speak and write that way

The first thing is to slow down. Nerves make us speak quickly. Have you ever listened to a Barack Obama speech? He uses pace and the pause to its best effect, as a result he comes across as considered, wise and supremely at ease. Sure, he’s a masterful orator but he probably wasn’t always, this can be trained

Then there is the self-sabotaging language. Why do women use minimising language?

  • We have a problem with self-advocacy and making our case, we want to appear confident but not too confident!
  • We don’t want to be seen as aggressive or pushy, so we overact into passive
  • We think it’s more polite to be self-effacing
  • We don’t want to appear the expert or arrogant because heaven forbid someone might think we know what we are talking about

There’s a big difference between Aggressive and Assertive. Assertiveness, is a good thing it makes you appear confident and gives you the appearance of authority, so we should embrace assertiveness with open arms.

Decades of social engineering and being seen but not heard have created a dictionary of self-sabotaging phrases such as

  • Use of apologetic language: “Can I just say”, “I’m just checking” “Sorry to interrupt but”
  • Tagging, a form of self-affirmation is when we use a question to check what we just said: “Does that make sense?” “Right?” “If that’s something of interest?”
  • Deliberate softening: “I believe” or “I think I contribute”
  • Qualifying: By qualifying what we are about to say with a self-effacing phrase such as “I’m no expert but” or “far be it from me to say” we are paving the way for saying something wrong, and removing all our credibility in the process

Becoming more self-aware, of what we say or write and how that comes across is half the battle. One way of doing this is to define the triggers; make a note of when you are about to speak or write something minimising and take a moment to reflect on why. It is possible to deconstruct the habit loop and look to replace the words which don’t serve you with those that do, this will rewire your brain.

Asking for what you want; owning your strengths, achievements and actions; taking credit for your work is not being pushy or arrogant or aggressive, it is about being confident in your own worth and your value. As women we have an equal voice, we have an opinion and a perspective which adds value. So don’t dumb down. Speak up, speak out and be heard.

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