They may seem innocent enough, but if wimpy words have made their way into your vocabulary (or have always been there), they’re likely zapping your personal power at work and at home. They tell people that you’re unsure of yourself, your ideas, and your position with the person to whom you’re speaking.
If you want to project confidence and authority and wish people would listen to your ideas and suggestions, work on eliminating these wimpy words from your vocabulary.
1. Tag questions are short questions added to a statement of opinion in an attempt to soften the opinion and to leave open the possibility of rebuttal.
“It’s about time to start the meeting, isn’t it?“
“I’d like to have pizza for lunch. Is that okay with you?“
To strengthen your message, take a stand. Say, “It’s 9 am, let’s start the meeting,” or “I’m going to get pizza for lunch. You’re welcome to join me if you’d like.”
2. Hesitations are the “uhs,” “ums,” and extended pauses that make you sound uncertain.
“It’s 9 am, uh, let’s go ahead and uh, start the meeting.”
“I think it’s um, and okay idea, um, if that’s what you want to do.”
To strengthen your message, eliminate the hesitations. If this has become a habit, here’s a tip for breaking it:
Ask a friend or coworker to stop you every time you say “uh” or “um” and then start your conversation over from the beginning. With practice, you’ll get into a new habit of slowing down and allowing your brain to stay a step ahead of your mouth, thereby eliminating, or at least reducing, your hesitations.
3. Hedges are another form of uncertainty, similar to tag questions in that they indicate an unwillingness to take responsibility or take a stand. Additionally, they are often used to avoid hurting another person’s feelings by just coming out and saying “no.”
“I might be willing to try it.”
“Maybe I could consider it.”
As with tag questions and hesitations, work on eliminating hedges if you want to strengthen your message. If you’re concerned about others’ reactions, including hurt feelings, you might explain why you disagree or why you’re saying no.
4. Qualifiers are adjectives or adverbs that weaken the words they preceded.
“I just need to talk with you about a little problem.”
“She’s really, really overwhelmed.”
“I think I can handle it.”
“I’m not sure but, I think you should research a few more options.”
To strengthen your message, eliminate the qualifiers and leave all the rest.
“I need to talk with you about a problem.”
“I can handle it.”
For this last statement, if you’re unsure whether you can handle whatever “it” is, then you should say so. “I have concerns about whether I’ll have time to get this done with my current workload.”
5. Courtesy titles or polite forms are terms such as “sir” or “ma’am.” (yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am)
I get a lot of pushback here in the South when I tell people that saying “yes sir,” or “no ma’am” makes them sound weak. I understand the rationale behind using these terms- courtesy, politeness, and respect. However, if you were to see two people talking and one was repeatedly saying, “yes sir,” and “no sir,” and the other person wasn’t, you’d know immediately which person was the one with more power and which one was subordinate.
To strengthen your message, eliminate the sirs and ma’ams except when speaking with your customers or your grandma/grandpa.
Eliminating weak words from your vocabulary will not only increase others’ confidence in you and what you have to say, but you’ll likely find your confidence in yourself will grow as you begin to speak with authority.