5 Phrases That Make Your Colleagues Think You’re Insecure

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July 21, 2024 at 1:15PM UTC
For better or for worse, outward confidence is a hot commodity in the business world. And for many women, it's not something that's naturally endowed on us by our colleagues — especially as a positive trait. As a result, especially when speaking formally, it can be important to use language that is read as powerful to get your point across. Or, you just could just take to writing, like I do. 
But, if you're not trying to write the next great American novel, what does powerful language look like? Well, it certainly doesn't take the form of the phrases I've listed below that scream "insecure."

1. "I just wanted..."

Whether you "just wanted" to say something or "just wanted" to stop by someone's office, this phrase diminishes the force of your action by painting your request as an intrusion that you plan to justify later in your statement. Chances are, you don't need to be justifying your very average request to a coworker or boss — sending them an email or dropping by their office is a normal act of business, not something you need to walk back. Acting like you need to apologize for everything you do makes you look weary of others' opinions — the definition of insecure. 

2. "It feels like..." or "I think..."

Using one of these modifying phrases instead of using a clear statement removes all of the conviction of what you're trying to say. It changes your statement of fact to a statement of a loosely held thought or idea, which is no good for presenting yourself as confident at work. Sharing your idea head on gives it extra power.

3. "Sorry to bother you..."

Similar to "I just wanted," "sorry to bother you" — an even more bold-faced apology —takes what could be a positive assertion of yourself at work and turns it into a self-shaming exercise. People who apologize for everything are trying to absolve themselves from an internal sense of guilt or shame that breeds insecurity, and it becomes pretty obvious to everyone around them. If you're trying to present more confident at work, cut this out. 

4. "Could you maybe..."

This phrase allows you to ask for a favor in a more passive way than asking for something straight out. However, this round-about way of talking sounds much less confident than asking for help, saying why that help is helpful and giving the other person an out — like caveating your ask with "if you have time" or "if you have the bandwidth." 

5. "That wasn't my fault."

Refusing to own up for something that goes wrong at work, especially when you were directly related to the incident, suggests you are extremely protective of your reputation or ego. While there are obvious times you shouldn't take the fall for something, facing your mistakes head on gains a lot more respect than hiding your failures just to avoid bruising. 

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