Learning to speak with clarity and confidence is essential to creating a strong professional image. When working with my clients, we often focus on modifying speech patterns, like how quickly someone talks, changing vocal quality, or learning to project with a clear, strong voice. However, vocabulary choice can also play a significant role in how others perceive you. Recently, a former Google executive published an article about a trend she noticed, particularly among her female colleagues: the word “just” crept into their speech constantly. As the author notes, “just” rarely adds any meaningful content to your message. Rather, it reduces the importance of your message and makes it sound like an apology. For example, “I’m just following up on our discussion,” or “I just wanted to ask you,” sound much less direct and professional than the same phrases minus the word “just.” What other words and phrases are you using in your day-to-day speech that could be undermining your credibility?
Like “just,” “kind of” unnecessarily weakens statements. It can make you sound unsure of yourself and seem less confident in your message. Often people use “kind of” to make unpleasant statements seem less abrasive, especially when going against another person’s idea or opinion. However, the phrase not only undermines your own position, but sounds childish and unprofessional. Most statements can do without the phrase altogether, but if you really feel you must soften your remark in some way, try replacing “kind of” with “a little”; it achieves the same goal, but sounds much more professional.
Apologizing when there’s no need to apologize makes you sound timid and gives the impression you don’t think your speech or ideas are worth listening to. By starting a statement with, “sorry,” you discredit your message significantly. Avoid this word unless you genuinely have something to be sorry for and are making a sincere apology.
People often use “so” when launching into their elevator pitch or attempting to sell someone on their idea. It signals to your listener that what you’re about to say is rehearsed, and projects an air of inauthenticity. Take note of if you habitually start phrases or conversations with this word, and strike it from your professional vocabulary.
If you have questions or are interested in improving your communication skills, give me a call at 212-308-7725 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
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