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WeakSpeak:TheseWordsMakeYouSoundWeakatWork

Jan Johnston Osburn
Jan Johnston Osburn Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities
7mo Washington, DC, United States Story
Weak Speak: These Words Make You Sound Weak at Work

Words have unbelievable influence. They paint vivid mental images while making us feel emotions. They make us feel sad, happy, and frustrated.

They inspire. They raise us up and tear us down.

And, when single words are woven together, they become stories.

Most of us don’t realize the power we hold by the words we choose to speak. And, the words we consistently use impacts how we are perceived. You know what they say about perceptions – they become realities. Some perceptions you can’t afford at work. 

There are certain words and phrases that can make you appear less confident and indecisive. They may even frustrate your listener. And, if the listener is your boss frustrating them is probably not the goal.

Here are seven common weak phrases where all you have to do is replace a single word and the whole meaning changes. You’ll elicit positive responses over the negative ones.

Seven Phrases That Make You Sound Weak

1. “I think…”

What sounds more impressive and imposing? “I think I am a good match for this position.” Or… “I am confident that my abilities are what you are looking for in your next employee.”

Both have the same meaning but the wording used in the second one sounds profoundly different. The first phrase makes you sound unsure and insecure. But, the second sentence is assertive and certain. To communicate passion, substitute the word ‘think’ with a word that conveys intention and purpose.

2. “I’ll try.”

What does “I’ll try” really mean? It means nothing. It only clouds your intentions.

The Boss: “Jack, can I have that report by Friday?”

Jack: “Sure, I’ll try to have it done”

As soon as someone hears the words “I’ll try”, they already know there is the possibility of failure. Failure is generally not a good option at work. You can replace ‘try’ with ‘will’ and the difference is immense.

Try is also one of the most irritating words that an employee can use at work. Other words that convey negativity or irritation are: someday, if, never, maybe, used to, and can’t.

Remember, don’t try… do.

3. “I would just like to say…”

When you use the word “just”, it does not radiate confidence and you reduce your credibility when you say it. Drop the words “would just” and say what you mean.

But, don’t say it with:

4., 5., and 6. “I feel”, “It feels like” and “I believe”

This falls into the “What I’m hearing is” category. As a previous social worker and counselor, those words became second nature to me and I’m still fighting them off all these years later. They’re great for facilitating heated meetings but when someone is relying on your expertise, it only introduces doubt about your knowledge. When you use them habitually, it stops you from taking a stand and being decisive.

Let’s look at the difference between these two sentences:

Sentence 1: “With our state-of the-art technology, I believe (or I feel) that this can position us for growth.”

Sentence 2: “With our state-of the-art technology and emerging markets, you’ll see that our company is well-positioned for growth.”

That simple and small replacement at the end, strengthens the impact of the whole sentence.

Some other stronger words to use:

I’m confident . . . I’m convinced . . . I’m optimistic . . . I expect . . .

7. Continually Saying “Sorry”

 “I’m sorry to bother you,” or “I’m sorry to ask you,” or “I’m sorry to take up your time.”

If you mess up, by all means apologize but don’t apologize for the sake of apologizing. You should feel like you are adding value in the workplace and should be able to say “When you have time, I’d like your opinion on…” or “I’d like to discuss…”  

Weak words never stimulate sureness. Changing up just a word or two in your sentences help you go from sounding wishy-washy to sounding self-assured and poised.

I am confident about it.


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5 comments

  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    7mo ago

    I love this, Jan. Thank you. I've been trying to eliminate the word 'just'. It's so difficult to break these habits but important. Is there one above that you are specifically trying to stop using?

    I love this, Jan. Thank you. I've been trying to eliminate the word 'just'. It's so difficult to break these habits but important. Is there one above that you are specifically trying to stop using?

    • Jan Johnston Osburn
      Jan Johnston Osburn Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities
      7mo ago

      I wrote this to be as much of a reminder to me as anyone. I KNOW better and I still find myself doing this. I say "sorry" too often. Old habits are hard to break and when we do break them it makes a big impact in our communication skills. Thanks for your comment, Bethany!

      I wrote this to be as much of a reminder to me as anyone. I KNOW better and I still find myself doing this. I say "sorry" too often. Old habits are hard to break and when we do break them it makes a big impact in our communication skills. Thanks for your comment, Bethany!

  • Lost_ Yank911
    Lost_ Yank911 Random thoughts from an EMT
    7mo ago

    Thank you , Jan!!! This was enlightening and helpful for me as I recover from a brain injury. Any feedback is welcomed!

    Thank you , Jan!!! This was enlightening and helpful for me as I recover from a brain injury. Any feedback is welcomed!

    • Jan Johnston Osburn
      Jan Johnston Osburn Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities
      7mo ago

      Thank you for your comments and best of luck to you in your healing process!

      Thank you for your comments and best of luck to you in your healing process!

      • Lost_ Yank911
        Lost_ Yank911 Random thoughts from an EMT
        7mo ago

        Your welcome and thank you!!!

        Your welcome and thank you!!!


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Jan Johnston Osburn
Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities

Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]

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