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THE LANGUAGE OF LEADERSHIP

By: Rachel Beohm | Apr 2, 2021

Meeting professionals lead every single day. Even if you are not in an “official” leadership position, you work to provide a positive experience for your clientele and guide them smoothly through events that, to them, may be uncharted territory. That is leadership! But the ability to lead and the ability to convey leadership are two very different things. 

In my work as a communication coach, I have noticed that many leaders — especially women — couch their requests, instructions, ideas and expectations in language that weakens their credibility. If you want to add weight to your message, demonstrate leadership and be taken seriously by coworkers or clients, here are some phrases to avoid: 

I think … In my opinion …
Certainly, if you are sharing a thought or opinion, state it as such. Do not pretend your opinions are facts. Often, however, people use these phrases to downplay their experience, observations or knowledge. If you know something to be true, own it! Beginning with “I think” or “In my opinion” is equivalent to saying, “Feel free to dismiss this.” 

Instead of, “I think we should …” say, “Here’s what we need to do.” Instead of, “In my opinion, it would be better to…” say, “Based on what I’ve noticed … .” Speak like a leader if you want to be seen as one. 

I feel like …
Your thoughts are not feelings. If you want to share how you feel, great! That can be healthy. Yet most people use “I feel like” as a substitute for “I think.” For example, “I feel like we need a bigger venue for this event.” Now your opinion is reduced to an emotional response and is much easier to reject. Simply state your opinion; if necessary, back it up: “We need a bigger venue. Here’s why.” 

Just … Maybe …  Might 
These words soften your message. “I just thought … maybe it would be a good idea to … you might consider … .” You do sometimes need to soften a message, but not when you want to convey leadership. These words express possibility; they are great in brainstorming sessions or when you’re offering suggestions. Use them purposefully and appropriately. Avoid them when you are stating a decision, sharing your experience or requesting a status update. 

I’m sorry … 
Leaders do need to apologize. A good leader takes responsibility for their decisions and how they affect others. Anytime you have made a mistake or hurt someone, even inadvertently, apologize and make it right. That demonstrates character and maturity — two things we want and need in leaders. 

Yet how often do you apologize for things that are not actually your fault? Or for things that are not wrong? Women in particular tend to blurt out “I’m sorry” almost compulsively. (I have done it myself!) Turn your apologies into gratitude, and you will come across as more confident and more gracious. For example, instead of “I’m sorry I’m late,” say, “Thanks for waiting.” Instead of, “Sorry about the bad connection,” say, “Thank you for bearing with me.” Instead of, “I’m sorry this is taking so long,” say, “I really appreciate your time.” 

As a final note, some women worry that without softeners they will come across as aggressive. Instead of softening your words, soften your voice tone. Breathe deeply and release tension from your body before speaking authoritatively. It takes the edge right off your voice and makes the words easier to hear and digest. 

You already have what it takes to lead. By weeding these phrases out of your vocabulary, you will increase your credibility with clients, vendors, coworkers and staff and demonstrate leadership in your day-to-day communication. 

Change your communication, change your life.

 
 

Author

Rachel Beohm
Rachel Beohm
Writer, Speaker and Coach

Square LogoRachel Beohm is a writer, speaker and coach based in Portland, Oregon. She blogs regularly at www.rachelbeohm.com and delivers coaching sessions, keynotes and workshops to clients all over the country.

 

 
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