The Power of your Words to Support or Undermine You: Day 12 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH

From Friday 19th January, everyday for 40 days, I will be sharing something each day that has either (1) changed my way of thinking or perspective, (2) helped me get through a challenging period of transition, change or growth, or (3) changed my life for the better. I've called it '40 Days of Growth'. I'd love it if you followed along with me on this journey - contributing what has also helped you to learn, grow and change. And, if I can support you on your own learning journey, please do let me know :)

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Day 12 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH


This time last week I was out at Silverstream Retreat helping to run the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards programme. It was truly an amazing 5 days volunteering with an epic team! We had 44 emerging leaders between the ages of 18-24 with a wide variety of passions, interests, skills and strengths. What was clear was that they all had potential to become leaders. One of the topics and skills that was taught to them over the intensive five days was COMMUNICATION - how to introduce people, how to have confidence standing up and speaking in front of others and the importance of their body language and words.


The subject of the written and spoken word is something that I am particularly passionate about. I'm especially passionate about how people use their words and how they talk about themselves - in their minds and out loud. So, day 10 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH is about just this, and in particular, includes helpful ways that people can support themselves with their language rather than undermine themselves. From the research, this is especially important for women.

Are your words accidentally undermining what you're saying and who you are?

Tara Mohr, author of the excellent book 'Playing Big' (if you're a woman, I HIGHLY recommend that you read it - even if it's just the part about your inner mentor) wrote a blog called '8 Ways Women Undermine Themselves With Their Words'. If you're a man or a woman, read it! You may have some 'aha' moments.

From my experience working with women in coaching/counselling capacities there are three standouts from Tara Mohr's article :

1. Drop the “just:” “I’m just wondering …” “I just think …” “I just want to add …” “Just” demeans what you have to say. “Just” shrinks your power. It’s time to say goodbye to the justs.
2. While you are at it, drop the “actually.” “I actually have a question.” ” I actually want to add something.” “Actually” communicates a sense of surprise that you have something to say. Of course you want to add something. Of course you have questions. There’s nothing surprising about it.
3. Don’t tell us why what you are about to say is likely to be wrong. We are still starting sentences with, “I haven’t researched this much but …” “I’m just thinking off the top of my head but …” “You’ve clearly been studying this longer than I have, but …” - Tara Mohr, '8 Ways Women Undermine Themselves With Their Words'

Do any of the above resonate? If you're anything like me when I read the above for the first time, I experienced many "ohhhhh"s and "nooooo, I do that!" moments. Or, it may not be until later when you're having a conversation and you recognise yourself or your friend saying some of the above that you realise how your and/or their language is undermining what you/they are saying. Isn't it crazy how a few words can make a big difference? And they say that size doesn't matter..... ;)



Saying "sorry"

One of the biggest speaking habits that one of my American flatmates trained me out of while we were living together at university was my habit of often saying "sorry" for no genuine reason. I noticed that whenever we'd be trying to get past each other in a particularly narrow part of our house, I would always say "sorry" and she would always say "you're all right" or "no, you're fine". She would often say it while laughing - showing warmth through her words and humour through her laughter that really it was not a big deal and worth saying "sorry" about. It was like she was reassuring me that I hadn't done anything wrong. And, I hadn't.

In my opinion, saying "sorry" in presentations, speeches and performances when no-one else knows that you're making a mistake needs to be edited out. Genuine apologies have a time and a place - they can be heart-opening and provide the needed relief. In public speaking, saying "sorry" when the speaker forgets a sentence or stumbles over a few words can distract the audience from the key messages of the speech and make the audience feel sorry for the speaker, making them focus more on the speaker than on the message. Not only this, but it can distract the speaker from their speech - they may be at risk of focusing on that one mistake which may lower their confidence and impetus that they started with at the beginning of their speech. I say this from experience - from being in the audience and from being the speaker while going through law school. My mentors and professors pointed this out to me and I've really taken it on board.

Noticing these little speaking habits makes us better speakers, presenters and people. Our words and messages can inspire others - especially clear messages. If you listen to the speeches of Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King Jr, I can guarantee you won't hear them say "let me just take a minute of your time..." or "oh, I'm sorry, I said that bit wrong".


Changing how I used the words "I'm sorry" really changed how I approached my daily interactions as well as how confident I felt while speaking in front of others. I hope that this idea also helps you!


If this idea resonates with you, I'd love to hear from you - whether in the comments below or on my other social media channels. Let's be social! And, if you loved this idea, feel free to share it with your friends and networks 😃


Jen Y