Words Shape Attitudes

My colleague and I teach seminars on improving self-esteem and self-confidence. We are frequently asked what is the number one way to convey a sense of confidence. One of the most empowering things a person can do is to speak confidently and with authority. Why? Because words shape attitudes.

Self-confidence is an attitude or state of mind. Although clients typically believe that self-confidence is acquired through accomplishments or achievements, I encourage them to look at self-confidence as a belief in one’s self—“knowing” that you can handle situations with assuredness and in a capable manner. Unfortunately, too many people don’t believe in themselves and choose words that convey their ambivalence.

Does your communication convey confidence? Do you find yourself using words like “I think” , “kind of”, “maybe”, “probably”, “just”. These words minimize the impact of your statements. This discredits your point of view; hence, people don’t take you seriously.

Do you speak with assurance, or do your statements trail off into questions? This negates the definitive nature in the statement. It is important to make claritive statements. Keep your statements clear, concise, and to the point. There is no need to say it in a way that requires someone else’s validation.

As you examine your linguistics, notice how many times you use the word that denote indecision or ambivalence. People frequently use words such as “try” or “think”. The word try infers that you will make an attempt. Again, this type of speaking sets you up for failure. It sabotages your motivation because it intimates that you may not be successful.

Consider the following statements: “I will try to diet.” “I will try to pick it up after work.” “I will try to get more sleep.” Now, take the “try” out of it. “I will diet.” “I will pick it up after work.” I will get more sleep.” This sends the other person a clear-cut message. It also makes a statement that you believe in yourself and your ability to get these things done. In other words, it creates confidence, which will make you more successful.

The word “think” has the same connotation. “I think it would be a good idea if…” “I think this projects needs…” “I think I will administer…” Omit the word “think” and listen to the difference in inflection.

If you lack self-confidence or if you find that these statements apply to you, I encourage you to practice the following:

• Ask another person to “time you out” when they hear words like “just”, “probably”, “maybe”, “guess”, or when they hear the words “think” or “try”. (We frequently use this in our group exercises and find that the average amount of times a person will use these words in a five-minute period is 16 times!) Obviously, once you recognize that you use these words, it is important to repeat the sentence without the qualifier and with confidence. Practicing this exercise helps to increase awareness and to change old patterns.

Your ability to speak confidently and assertively makes an impression on how others view you. It is imperative that you speak with authority. If words shape attitudes, then choose to use words that empower your belief in yourself and increase your confidence. You’ll discover amazing results.

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