Ever since I moved away from the bench, I have been reading new books to provide me with tips and tools for my new “Administrator” role. I have also met with a professionalism coach. Occasionally, the tips I have heard or seen don’t appear to be pertinent to me. However, after taking special attention of my speech, I realized they were very important. I want to share two of these tips with you now as they could enhance how your colleagues view your competence and could help you get promotions in the future.
The first is don’t share unnecessary information or over explain an answer. Doing either of these things makes it appear as if you are justifying yourself (and potentially showing a lack of confidence), or are inadvertently saying the individual is important and requires a deferential attitude. This tip was shared with me by Mary Mitchell (of the Mitchell Organization). She used a couple of examples to prove her point.
The first was, if you need to excuse yourself momentarily, all you need to say is “excuse me, I will be back in a moment.” You don’t need to inform the person that you need to pop to the rest room, but that is what a lot of us say. This is a case of too much information.
The second was, if you are asked for an answer, you can simple give it and don’t elaborate anymore. Then, if you are questioned, you can decide whether to provide more or you can simply restate your answer. I have used this second method a number of times since I realized that I usually explained my reasoning without the other individual requesting it. I have noticed that no one has ever asked me to explain my thoughts and have just accepted my response where previously a lengthy discussion may have ensued. By keeping my answers short it is showing my confidence in my abilities and with the situation. That in turn is reflected to colleagues which subconsciously changes their perceptions of you.
The second is not to apologize unnecessarily. Again, this shows a lack of confidence and, according to a lot of books, will actively prevent you from excelling and succeeding at work. When I initially read this I thought I didn’t suffer from this, but over a period of time, I realized I apologized inappropriately more than I should.
The first time I noticed it, I was walking in a building and someone was walking close by, carrying things. When we got to a door, I opened it, and then said “I am sorry. Here, let me help you”. What was I apologizing for? That I wasn’t carrying anything, and should automatically help them with their burden? I could have simply done the nice thing and hold the door open for them to proceed.
After that, I realized I would delegate work and apologize for giving individuals tasks, or if I phoned someone, begin with “I am sorry to bother you.” These are all sentences which should be eradicated if you want to project confidence and decisiveness. You can still be polite without uttering them. Only say an apology if you mean to make a real apology. (I would also ensure it is a sincere apology, if you need to make it. Everyone has seen a child state “I am sorry” or “I apologise” when they most certainly do not mean it. Adults can do the very same–except in a work environment, you could damage working relationships if you act in this petulant way.)
Now, I am sure some of you are reading this and thinking “what rubbish.” I hate to say it, but all the reading I have done points to females doing these two actions more than males, and ultimately paying the price by missing out on promotions. I would hate that to happen to anyone. Please consider that these could apply to you and see if you can catch yourself doing either of these harmful things.
If you do notice it, take action immediately. It has taken conscious effort on my part to notice that I do say these things from time to time, and to actively focus on not saying them anymore. The more practice I get, the easier it becomes. I will admit the first (not sharing unnecessary information) is far easier than the second. One unexpected bonus is that my meetings are shorter so I can be more productive! Just making these simple changes could lead to higher pay due to better work assessments, promotions, and colleagues viewing you as more confident, an equal, and more capable in the work place. Such an easy fix, are you willing to give it a try?