Want to sound more assertive? Ditch these 4 phrases that make you look 'weak or timid,' say word experts

Want to sound more assertive? Ditch these 4 phrases that make you look ‘weak or timid,’ say word experts

We all have skills, opinions and ideas that we feel confident about. But whether or not other people — a boss, colleague, friend, partner or new acquaintance — feel the same depends on how you communicate.

Are you passive and let other people steamroll over you? Are you aggressive and make enemies instead of friends? Or are you passive-aggressive and irritate others by being unclear? None of these are qualities will help you sound confident.

The key is to be assertive without being overly aggressive, and you can do that by avoiding these four phrases that make you sound weak or timid:

1. “I’m sorry to ask this, but…”

2. “I could do that.”

3. “You need to…”

4. “You always…” (or “You never…”)

More ways to sound assertive without being overly aggressive

Being thoughtful and intentional in the way you communicate will go a long way in earning respect. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  1. Say “because” when you refuse a request. It softens the “no” and confidently explains your reasoning. Instead of saying “I can’t do it,” say “I can’t do that today, because I need to prepare for a meeting this afternoon.” (Bonus points if you offer a potential solution: “How about I do that on Tuesday?”)
  2. Say “I understand” when you disagree with someone. Instead of cutting right to the chase about why you think someone is wrong, start with a softener like “I see your point” or “I get what you’re driving at.”
  3. Start with empathy. When you’re turning someone down, let them know you understand how it affects them. “I know you are busy and stressed out, but I really don’t have the time today.”
  4. When you explain a problem, use conditional statements. Follow this format: “If you do [X]then [Y] happens.” For example: “When the report wasn’t finished in time, it created a problem for the team’s sales presentation.” This helps you take the emotion out of the problem and focus on the solution.

Kathy and Ross Petras are the brother-and-sister co-authors of the NYT bestseller “You’re Saying it Wrong,” as well as “Awkword Moments″ and “That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.” They co-host NPR’s award-winning podcast “You’re Saying It Wrong.” Their newest book, “A History of the World Through Body Parts,” is a quirky history of things you didn’t learn through textbooks. Follow them on Twitter @kandrpetras.

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