Have you ever thought about how the words you use can impact your brand? No, I’m not talking about the four-letter words I refuse to give up. I’m talking about qualifying words that weaken your message or show a lack of confidence. In the Forbes article “6 Words You Need To Eliminate From Your Professional Vocabulary,” words like “sorry,” “just,” and “hopefully” were noted among the list.
How many times have you used these words in emails, conversations, or even during job interviews?
I used to be guilty of using “sorry” often in emails without realizing it. Usually, it was when I wanted to follow up with someone who was unresponsive, or I was the one who took too long to respond (oops!). But, now, I remind myself that I don’t always need to apologize for every single thing.
It has been debated that generally women are more likely to apologize than men or use weak words like “just.” In fact, there is a Just Not Sorry app geared towards women which tackle the use of apologetic and diminishing words (even though this could be used universally and is not the case for every woman; yes, I needed to add that).
Now, it’s not to say that there are not times when using some of these words are not warranted, but the point is to be mindful of how they shape your message in professional settings.
Here’s an example of how words can weaken or strengthen a message (Note: I underlined the “weak” words):
Sorry to be a bother. How are things going with the review? I just wanted to follow up on the previous email I sent you last week. Can you please provide your feedback on the presentation? Hopefully, you can respond to me this week so that we can proceed with finalizing the content.
Now, let’s change it up a little bit (excluding the weak words):
I wanted to follow up on my previous email to confirm the status of your review of the presentation. Can you please provide your feedback by [insert due date]? If I don’t hear back from you, I will consider that no further updates are needed. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Do you notice a difference between the two emails? The first example is professional but doesn’t set any firm dates or expectations. Also, there’s no incentive for the person to respond immediately.
However, the second example is direct and sets expectations (e.g., a deadline). Also, it takes control of the situation letting the person know that you will proceed if needed.
The point is this: Don’t take away from your message by using words that put your insecurities on display or take away your authority. Instead, Do be mindful of the words you use and make sure they exude a confident brand that gets results.
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career. With over ten years’ experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is inspiring professionals to dare mediocrity.