How to Sound Confident (Even When You’re Not)

Just wanted to let you know that I think words matter. I was hoping you would maybe read this post about it to learn more, but I’m no expert.

Woah, what kind of opening sentence is that — does it make you want to read on? We’re guessing you’re hovering over the “exit” button right now, and we don’t blame you.

how to sound confident

The reality is, we’re all busy, and the content world is also more cluttered than ever. To break through in the craziness at work and at home, confidence is required to command attention. And, it’s not that difficult.

We can exude confidence using one sneaky trick – choosing our words wisely. According to experts, utilizing confident words and expressions has a definite impact and how we’re perceived. Here’s what they have to say:

  • “Meaningful words stated in the declarative mood, assertively, and positively are more likely to beget meaningful actions” – Harvard Business Review
  • “When someone exudes confidence, we want to work with them. We are more likely to follow their lead. Confidence is the number one byproduct of the personal branding process” – William Arruda, personal branding expert (to Forbes)
  • Confidence helps you stand out, get great projects, and get recognized by leadership – Deborah Brown-Volkman, career coach (to Forbes)

So, how do you exude confidence, anyway? Let’s break our language recommendations down into our three key tips:

  1. Be polite, but direct
  2. Know that your words have value
  3. Up the affirmative

Okay, but what does that mean, really? Lucky for you, we came ready with examples and words to avoid.

How to be polite, but direct

  • Avoid qualifying words: Qualifying words (e.g. “sort of,” “kind of,” “pretty much”) get in the way by distracting from the words you are trying to express. Instead, use definite language without extra words. Work on making it second nature to delete words that don’t add value.
    • Instead of: Anyway, we’re actually excited to present to you today, because this is really our first opportunity to share the strategy and we’re sort of proud of it.
    • Try: We’re excited to present our strategy to you today. Thank you for giving us your time.
    • Words to avoid: sort of, kind of, actually, basically, really, anyway, pretty much, if that makes sense
  • Stay away from words that diminish: Using diminishing words (e.g. just, simply, maybe) implies that you don’t think the words they accompany are important. If you don’t think they are important, why should your reader?
    • Instead of: Thanks for the updated ad copy. Should we maybe consider adding a title and a cartoon monkey? Just thinking about what is going to maybe make it stronger for the audience.
    • Try: I like this draft, thank you for making the updates. I recommend adding a title and a cartoon monkey. Let’s talk about it in our meeting at 3:00 today.
    • Words to avoid: Just, simply, maybe, only
  • If you want or need something to happen, say it directly: Be direct with what you hope to achieve with your words. Dancing around statements and requests may seem polite, but stronger words will get the job done faster.
    • Instead of: Wanted to let everyone know that we announced our new team of ambassadors today. I was hoping you could check out their bios on our website.
    • Try: We are proud to announce our new team of ambassadors! Get to know them on our website today.
    • Instead of: I’d like to welcome you to Westworld.
    • Try: Welcome to Westworld.
    • Words to avoid: I wanted, I was hoping, I’d like, I’d ask, Sorry to bug you

How to use your words to demonstrate your value

  • Avoid weak words: Passive words and phrases such as “I believe…” imply to your audience that they might need to question what you’re saying. Your audience is best poised for persuasion if you can demonstrate that you’re also confident and supportive about what you’re proposing by deleting words that reveal uncertainty.
    • Instead of: We believe that the opportunity with Dumbledore’s Army could be a smart move. We feel calling them for a meeting would work.
    • Try: The opportunity with Dumbledore’s Army is a smart move. We recommend meeting with them to explore next steps.
    • Words to avoid: I think, I believe, I feel
  • Know your value, show your value: You are smart and great and you’re here for a reason. Believe it, embrace it, and use your words to demonstrate it.
    • Instead of: Just my two cents — lose the “The.” It’s cleaner – just “Facebook.” Take it or leave it, what do I know anyway.
    • Try: Lose the “The.” It’s cleaner – just “Facebook.”
    • Instead of: I don’t have a film background, but I think this would go a lot better if we ran the scenes forwards instead of backwards. Am I making sense right now?
    • Try:  The scenes will be easier to understand for the audience if we run them forwards versus backwards.

Words to avoid: Just my two cents, I’m no expert, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about

How to up the affirmative

  • Don’t say you’re sorry, say you’re thankful: Apologizing, when it isn’t strictly necessary, forces the receiver to shoulder your guilt and forgive you. Expressing gratitude builds up the receiver and makes you feel good too.
      • Instead of: I’m so sorry I’m late.
      • Try: Thank you for your patience.
      • Instead of: Sorry I’m talking so much. I just love Parenthood so much and it makes me cry every time! I’m sorry, I’m just such an emotional wreck.
      • Try: Thank you for listening to me. It’s not often I find a like-minded person who also prefers Parenthood to This Is Us. You are really the Joel to my Julia.
      • Words to avoid: SO sorry, I’m sorry, I’m the worst
    • Say “thank you” more often: It is not happy people who are grateful; it’s grateful people who are happy. Expressing gratitude doesn’t only make the recipient feel good, it makes YOU feel good too. That said – we should all do it more often. What a win-win!
      • Try: I could not have gotten through this week without you. You are amazing – thank you.
      • Try: I really appreciate your good attitude every day.
      • Try: You were a huge help on this project. Thank you for your input!
      • Words to avoid: n/a



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About Emily Baseman

Emily Baseman considers herself a fitness generalist. A firm believer that wellness is found by giving your body what it deserves, she is dedicated to working out regularly, drinking lots of water, and eating plenty of vegetables. From barre to HIIT to yoga to cycling, Emily loves to work up a sweat running around to take in a little bit of everything. She is a midwestern transplant to Washington, DC, currently working, cooking, and exploring the fitness scene in our nation's capital. By day, Emily helps social impact brands and nonprofits use social media to tell their philanthropic stories. She's obsessed with her dog, Bascom, red wine, and cheese of all kinds.