Search for what confident people say at work and you’ll likely find a list of articles on what you should not say. But some phrases that project capability and confidence can easily be incorporated into conversations. This is a topic especially relevant to women, given that sometimes others perceive us as less confident than men in the workplace.
I’ve worked to overcome my confidence gap, in large part by being a keen observer of how people who appear confident act and what they say. I’ve been intentionally incorporating these practices into my communication style, which help me when interfacing with senior-most leaders of my company and managing a team. Based on my experience, these are the most effective phrases to project confidence.
1. You raise good points. Tell me more.
It takes confidence to acknowledge another’s point of view rather than simply focusing on defending your perspective. By showing that you are secure enough to want to learn about the other party’s concerns, you demonstrate not only confidence, but also that you are a listener and relationship-builder.
2. I don’t have an answer right now.
It may seem tempting to try to answer every question immediately to show capability. But I often find myself regretting extemporaneous not-fully-hashed-out responses. It shows more confidence to admit that you need more time to come up with an answer, and you’re more likely to impress with a well-thought-out follow-up.
3. I have concerns with...have you thought about [insert alternative]
Confident people do not hold back their opinions. Don’t be afraid to disagree or raise concerns politely, and the other party will likely be impressed by your critical thinking and find your input valuable. Ideally, if you raise a concern, also propose a solution or alternative.
4. No, I can’t take that on because…
Confident people know how to set boundaries and can say “no” when needed. Even though it may be tempting to accommodate—say, additional workload that is misaligned with your job or that you don’t have the bandwidth to complete—you will show more confidence when self-advocating. Of course, you don’t want to say no too frequently, so I’d suggest reserving your “no’s” for when they really count.
5. Yes, I can be successful in taking this on because...
Conversely, as part of the ability to self-advocate, confident people are willing to take on responsibilities or projects that support their career, even if they don’t fully have the requisite experience. It’s important to actively pursue opportunities that help you gain visibility and develop new skills aligned with your career goals—even if it means taking a risk.
6. I’d like to share (or I’m proud of) the progress I (we’ve) made…
Confident people are willing to highlight their accomplishments openly. There’s a difference between bragging and putting yourself in a better position to receive the recognition you deserve. One method of promoting yourself without bragging is to use a combination of "I"s and "we"s in describing accomplishments so you can take credit for your good work while acknowledging others.
7. Based on my experience...
There’s something about individuals speaking from experience that catches people’s attention. Using this phrase to begin a thought serves multiple purposes: you show you have experience, that you are confident speaking to that experience, and you truly have best practices to suggest.
Some of these phrases are easy to adopt; others require some level of confidence to express. Remember that each time you harness the courage to put yourself “out there,” you are gaining new skills and developing confidence along the way. Also, keep in mind that communication extends beyond words. Ensure that you are convincing in your delivery and use confident body language and tone of voice.
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This article was written by an FGB Contributor.
Adrienne Lo is a Chicago-based HR Director at a Fortune 500 company, where she leads the Asian-American Employee Resource Group. She is passionate about amplifying diverse voices and is an avid speaker on the topic of closing the leadership gap for women and minorities, frequently partnering with organizations to offer webinars and workshops. Adrienne is also completing her memoir on her immigrant experience and how she found her voice.