Words Matter: How to Sound More Confident at Work
There are certain people who just exude confidence—sometimes too much confidence. But for the rest of us, it can be an overwhelming obstacle to speak with confidence in the office, whether it’s for a presentation or just a casual conversation with the boss. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks to get you communicating like the professional you are in no time.
You have to start somewhere
Oftentimes, it’s getting started that proves to be the most challenging part of speaking at work, especially when you’re part of a wider discussion with coworkers. Kimberly Van, career coach and blogger at WorkLifeMoney, suggests coming up with a few strong, effective opening sentences you can always fall back on when responding to others or giving your opinion. These include phrases like, “To follow up on X’s point…” or “Something we need to look at is…” Notice the lack of words like “well,” “just,” or “I think.” These are all filler words that undermine your point, and, while it will be difficult to break the habit of using them, might be one of the most effective and quickest ways to begin sounding more confident.
Make statements, not questions
When speaking confidently, it’s important not to end your sentences with an upward tone of voice. Why? This gives the impression that every single thing you say Is? A? Question? It can come across as seeking approval from your peers or otherwise not being sure in what you’re talking about. Instead, be sure to keep the ends of your sentences consistently flat so all your statements come out as, well, statements. An even tone will drive home the fact that you’re ending your sentences with periods, not question marks.
Don’t be afraid of the silence
Is there anything more terrifying than the complete silence of a room as you prepare to speak? For many people, the answer is “no.” But silence can be a powerful tool that shouldn’t be underestimated. Forbes points out that “a part of being confident in your communication is having confidence in your thoughts and ideas. So you don’t have to rush to explain it again or clarify anything if no one has asked a question.”
Silence doesn’t mean judgment or disapproval. For many people, they need a few moments to gather their thoughts and opinions about what you said. The last thing you want to do is rush in and fill the silence with words that make you sound nervous or as if you’re second guessing what you just said.
Get people’s opinions
You’ll likely find the quiet quickly filled with others’ thoughts or questions. However, if the silence does stretch on, feel free to ask specific questions of your audience. Ask their opinion about a specific suggestion you made or if anyone else has experienced the topic you discussed. But avoid asking questions that undermine the clarity of your presentation. After all, confident communication means showing off your knowledge, ideas, and expertise in a particular area. Don’t make it appear as if you doubt yourself by asking if anyone needs any clarification—have confidence that if they do, they’ll ask you for it.
Take your time
While speaking in the office, make a conscious effort to slow down. When people are nervous, they tend to pick up speed in order to get their point over as quickly as possible or because they’re afraid of silence (see above). But according to Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED, speakers should aim for about 190 words per minute.
Lastly, smiling can go a long way toward making you feel confident when speaking with others in the workplace. It not only changes the tone of your voice to make it warmer and more enjoyable to listen to, but it also demonstrates to the person or people listening that you are confident and composed.
Learning to speak confidently will benefit you in just about every way, from having those difficult discussions with your boss to nailing that department-wide presentation you’ve been working so hard on. Being soft-spoken isn’t a bad thing, but neither is it a lifelong sentence of staying in the background. Once you get the hang of speaking with determination and poise, you’ll never go back.