It’s time to banish tentative verb phrases like “I think”, “I feel” or “I just thought” so that you sound more confident and assertive at work.

Here are 10 common workplace situations where changing just one word (or two) will elevate your credibility quotient.

 

You’re giving your opinion

Swop this

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but the PR angle for the new product launch is weak.”

For this

“I have a different opinion. The PR angle for the new product launch is weak. Here’s why…”

Because

In the first statement, those opposing your point of view will correct you.

 

You’ve been asked to thank the guest speaker, with no time to prepare

Swop this

“I’ve just been asked to thank the speaker and it’s taken me by surprise and I hope I’ll do a good job.” *nervous giggle*

For this

“Thank you Speaker for your inspiring/thought-provoking/entertaining speech.”

Because

When you start with an apology, you appear incompetent. Added to this, it makes your audience and especially the speaker, feel uncomfortable.

 

You want to contribute to the conversation

Swop this

“I just want to say, the budget hasn’t been finalised yet, so it’s premature to make that decision.”

For this

“That decision is premature because the budget hasn’t been finalised yet.”

Because

The word “just” devalues anything you say after it, and implies that what you’re saying is irrelevant or insignificant.

 

You report back on an important discussion

Swop this

“Grace and I have been chatting about it…”

For this

“Grace and I have been discussing the situation.”

Because

“Chatting” sounds trivial. “Discussing” sounds more considered.

 

Someone’s sharing something from the heart

Swop this

“I know what you mean. This is what happened to me…”

For this

“Tell me more.”

Because

You can’t equate your experience with theirs. It’s not the same. It’s never the same.

 

You make a statement

Swop this

Letting your voice go up at the end of the sentence, like there’s a question mark.

For this

Making sure your sentences finish strongly.

Because

If it sounds like you’re not sure what you’re saying, no one else will be sure either.

 

Your opinion is challenged in front of your boss or a prospective client

Swop this

“Um, er, you see…”

For this

“You’re questioning whether… I say that because…”

Because

Filler words like “um” and “er” make you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. By rephrasing the question, you give yourself time to restate your point of view, this time with supporting evidence.

 

You get interrupted

Swop this

“Please let me finish”

For this

“I’m not finished”

Because

Using the word “please” gives the subtle impression you’re asking for permission.

 

You find yourself disagreeing with a colleague

Swop this

Debate

For this

Discussion

Because

In a debate there’s a winner and a loser. A discussion however, is a mutual learning experience. For example “I think Khutso is the best candidate because of his progressive policies. What do you think?”

 

You’re negotiating an increase

Swop this

Meandering babble

For this

Silence

Because

Besides creating the space for your point to sink in, the ability to live with silence – whether your own or your boss’s – makes you appear more confident.

 

There.

The reason behind learning to sound assertive is not so that you can get your way. It’s so that you can handle whatever comes your way.

Now you. What swops, words or phrases can you add to this list to help the rest of us increase our assertiveness communication skills?