“I just want to remind you this project is due tomorrow!”  
“Just checking in to see where you are with that assignment.”  

Have you ever written those sentences? Or what about, “I kinda feel like maybe you should not do that”? What’s wrong with those sentences? It’s called knee-capping! It’s the extra fluff in your vocabulary that makes you feel like you’re softening your words. You’re doing it hoping to avoid sounding aggressive or simply wanting to make sure you sound as nice as possible. 

Women tend to do this all the time. Let me be the first to tell you: Girl, this is not helping you! Ever notice men don’t typically use those words? 

I have a colleague whose emails are full of language like this. She often starts with “I’m sorry to bother you…” and her requests are full of disclaimers such as “if it’s not too much trouble” or “I was kind of thinking that…” The problem? Language like this doesn’t communicate a whole lot of confidence. And as a result, you might be knee-capping your own career. 

What do I mean by this? Using vocabulary like “sort of,” “maybe,” “just,” and the profuse “sorry” puts you in a position of less value than the person on the other side of the table. It shows timidity and insecurity. How can everyone else take you seriously if you don’t take your own self seriously? Try those first sentences without the insecure fluff: 

“I want to remind you this project is due tomorrow.”  
“I’m checking in to see where you are with that assignment.” 
“You should not do that.” 

 See? Those are the words of a confident woman. These aren’t rude sentences. They are confident requests with a purpose. 

 Wait! It’s not just your vocabulary! 

It’s more than what you say that could be knee-capping your career. There is a difference between being a team player and a doormat. Yeah, maybe you don’t mind doing the coffee run or cleaning up the mess after the lunch meeting in the conference room, but if you are the one always doing it and it has become expected of you, it might be a good idea to step back and let someone else do it. And don’t apologize for it! 

Why put limits on yourself in the way you communicate? It’s time to break these bad habits that are hindering your success! Here’s how: 

  1. Know yourself. Are you overly concerned with keeping everyone around you happy or worried about their perception of you? Take some time to evaluate whether or not you are in the habit of doing this. For a variety of reasons, women are more likely to be overly concerned with other’s perceptions. If you find this peoplepleasing tendency to be true of you, assess where it originated and work through the root of this motivation. Bottom line: What’s your motivation? Is it to be liked no matter what? Or is it to be liked because you’re a good, confident leader?
  2. Be confident. Have you ever been in a meeting and thought of a great idea to add to the discussion but are afraid of what other people might think of it? When this is the case, don’t frame it as an apology, bring it up with confidence! Yeah, maybe it isn’t a great idea and maybe they won’t like it, but oh well! They will still respect you for respecting yourself. And whatever you do, don’t start your idea with, “This may be stupid, buuuuttt…” Admire yourself and others will follow along.
  3. Be ok with conflict. This is a hard one! Especially since peace in our work environment usually results in greater productivity. Sometimes we want to soften what we are saying in order keep people happy or make sure they like us. Sometimes we hope to avoid conflict that arises by not saying what someone doesn’t want to hear. But what if it needs to be said? Are you trying to avoid conflict at all costs? Even if it means compromising yourself?
  4. Be ok with making a direct point. Take the fluff words out of your vocabulary. Edit your texts and emails before you send them and remove your insecurities! Worry less about how someone else might perceive what you say and instead “own your messages with confidence. This doesn’t mean you have to be an eloquent communicator. I know sharing an idea that comes to you at a meeting, you don’t always have the opportunity for a rehearsed delivery, but that doesn’t mean your ideas don’t have value. 

Remember, you can be polite without demeaning yourself. You don’t have to knee-cap yourself. Be direct. Be firm when you need to. Take away your disclaimersyour “sorrys” and your justs” and be assured and confident! You have value and worth. Don’t communicate otherwise!