Have you ever listened to someone give a detailed instruction, only to be at a loss for what they want because of their choice of words?

It happens all the time right? And that is because they are choosing phrases that are wishy washy and indecisive. Often people do not want to come across as controlling, so will try and soften their instructions. All this ends up achieving is confusion.

If you don’t speak with a level of authority then people will not know what you want, therefore not deliver what you need. The following phrases are major culprits for confusion and indecision.

1: I’m not sure, but…

We all know that no one likes a know-it-all. But it is better to sound like a know-it-all than a numpty!

It is fine to not be sure of something, no one can know everything. But, there is no point in saying that you aren’t sure, if you really ARE sure of what you are saying. It actually undercuts your authority on the matter, as people don’t understand if you know what you are talking about or not.

Instead of saying ‘I’m not sure if I can meet a Friday deadline’, you should say something like, ‘I am just waiting on some information to come through and as long as I receive it by Thursday, I can meet a Friday deadline.’

You have indicated that something out of your control might prevent you from hitting the deadline. Everyone is on the same page and you can communicate further when you do receive the pending information.

Don’t try and downplay what you know to soften a blow, it will only confuse matters.

2: Sort of, Kind of

If someone said to you ‘I kind of think we should do this’, what would it make you think? Are they confident in their own opinion, are they hunting for validation, or do they really have no clue what they are talking about?

A sentence like that does not inspire confidence in what you have to say. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It creates a lack of clarity and can make you look weak.

3: Qualifying Expressions

Maybe, probably, potentially, hopefully, possibly and basically can all leave doubt in people’s minds. For example, if your boss says to you ‘Hopefully you are fine with this’ then it is almost like they are asking your opinion.

Does that mean there is an opportunity to you challenge the statement they have just made? They are downplaying their own authority be not doing direct.

4: Using The Past Tense

Using the past tense instead of the present tense can indicate to people that you no longer believe in what you are saying. ‘I thought we could…’ You thought? Does that mean that you think something different now?

Instead, use the more powerful present tense ‘I think we should do…’ You are stating a current opinion and standing by it. That is far more convincing than what you might have thought 3 weeks ago!

To gain the reputation of a confident person who has important things to say, then you need to inspire people to believe in you. Using wishy washy terms, or hiding behind conversational loopholes certainly won’t do that. Instead, speak directly and with authority.