Being direct is difficult when confidence is lacking. Before we go on talking about confidence, let’s get on the same page about its definitions. Confidence means:

  1. the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
  2. the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
  3. a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

Confidence plays a massive role in determining how we speak to ourselves and others. Oftentimes, a presence or lack of confidence will change our word choices. Here are a few words/phrases that I want you to focus on not saying in these contexts.


  • “I just don’t think that’s necessary,” is different then, “That is not necessary.” The second sentence gives off a sense of knowing and authority. The first sentence adds a little more emotion to the sentence and makes it more about what you think than what you know is necessary.


  • “I, like, don’t want to do that.” This gives off the impression that you have not thought about what you are saying and that you do not have proper grammar. This does not show having confidence, because you are trying to find words to say by saying, “like,” in this manner.

I think

  • “I think that we should go ahead with the project,” instead of, “We should go ahead with the project.” The difference between the two is that one shows an understanding and authority in the situation, while the other one slightly undermines the discussed recommended action.


  • “I, um, don’t think we should uh, handle this situation how we are handling it now.” This shows a lack of confidence in yourself as well as a lack of confidence in what you are saying by stumbling through your sentence.

I don’t know

  • “How are you doing with talking to Mike today?” “I’m okay; I don’t know. It’ll be fine.” This shows that you are unsure of yourself or do not feel like putting your true feelings on someone else’s shoulders. This shows that you are self-conscious.

These all boil down to a lack of confidence either in yourself or in what you say. These words can slowly start to cut away at a good reputation or diminish your authority within an organization. People can start to respect your ideas and you less over time. I encourage you to use authoritative, action words that convey a simple and concise thought. For women, this is exceedingly important in order to succeed in business. According to Marguerite Rigoglioso of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, “The research suggests that for women to be successful they must simultaneously present themselves as self-confident and dominant while tempering these qualities with displays of communal characteristics.” She discusses the importance of women “self-monitoring” to understand when to use which character traits.

“Masculine,” defined as aggressive, assertive, and confident, “women who were high self-monitors did quite well professionally, according to the study. They received 1.5 times more promotions than masculine men, and about two times as many promotions as feminine men, regardless of whether the men were high or low self-monitors. They also received 3 times as many promotions as masculine women who were low self-monitors, affirming that masculine behavior alone does not garner success.”

For women, it is vital that we begin to monitor our self-talk and word choices that we use with others. If we do not do this, our reputations may suffer, we may experience lower salaries and less promotions, and we may earn less respect from colleagues, bosses, and subordinates. Using powerful language, when necessary, is a key component of portraying and developing self-confidence both in our words and ourselves.