To be suddenly introduced to your subconscious habits (and how they’re holding you back), is a scary but amazing thing. Your eyes are instantly opened to something you didn’t even realise you were doing and once you’re aware, you can begin to do something about them.

Well this bad habit is an important one. It’s one that so many women fall guilty of and one that’s all to do with self-sabotaging through speech.

There are so many ‘little things’ that women say (and write) on a daily basic that aren’t really ‘little.’ In fact, they have a huge impact in causing us to come across as less confident and a hell of a lot less competent.

FYI: It’s probably not just a female thing – there may be men that occasionally find themselves guilty of this habit too – but unfortunately it’s us women that do it a hell of a lot more.


You couldn’t possibly be undermining yourself with your own words, surely? Well get ready for an ‘ah!’ moment.

1. How many times a day do you use the word ‘just’?

“I just want to check in and see…”

“I’d just like to say…”

“I just think that…”

By using ‘just’ we’re making ourselves sound a little apologetic about what we’re saying, and as if you’re not even sure that what is about to come out of your mouth is right, or even allowed. There’s a huge difference in the sound of “I just think” and “I think…”

2. Are you ‘actually’ saying this?

Inserting actually into your sentences is another subconscious habit we should probably try and ditch.

“I actually disagree…”

“Actually I have a question to ask.”

It actually makes us sound as if we’re surprised by what is happening – that we surprised that we disagree or that we have a question. How’s that good?

3. Qualifying your words

“I’m no expert in this, but…”

“I know you’ve done your research, but…”

You’re undermining your position before you’ve even stated your opinion. Come on, if you’re already putting yourself down before you’ve spoken, who’s going to listen?

4. “Does this all make sense?”

Asking, “Does that make sense?” or “Am I making sense?” is an easy trap to fall into. We do it with good intentions – we want to check in with the other people in the conversation to make sure we’ve been clear.

The problem is however, that “does that make sense” can either comes across as condescending (like your audience isn’t capable of understanding) or, even worse, it implies you feel that you’ve been incoherent.


Annoyingly, we’re more than likely using these speech habits to soften our communications to ensure that we don’t get labelled – as women so often do – as bitchy, aggressive, or abrasive.

Well surprise surprise, being seen that way doesn’t mean you are that way. You’re not bitchy, you’re confident, and sadly that’s not going to be all the time. Obviously we need to be mindful of how we are coming across to those we want to influence, reach, and work with, so the key idea is this:

Instead of using the self-diminishing qualifiers (eg: just, actually, sorry, but…) so that you seem ‘nice’, communicate both your warmth and competence in a more proactive and positive way. It’s different to sacrificing how credible and competent you come across in order to be seen as more likable.

Think back to that earlier conversation you had with your colleague or that email you sent to your boss. Would the outcome have been different if you’d had simply said it in a slightly different way?

Honestly, you’ll be surprised how people respond differently to you once you stop using these (ridiculously subtle) undermining phrases.

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