Stop Hedging – It Makes You Sound Weak
Yesterday, a leader I respect said, “I almost teared up.” Before the conversation ended, I said, “Eliminate the word ‘almost’ from your vocabulary. It makes you sound weak.”
He asked for an explanation. I reminded him that he said, “I almost teared up.” Then I spoke directly, “You didn’t almost tear up. Either you did or you didn’t.” If you didn’t tear up, say, “It touched me.”
- Probably or possibly.
Hedging words make you sound weak.
“Just” and “only”:
“I just want to ask,” or, “I only have a small request,” weaken sentences.
I minimize myself when I say, “I’m just a country boy.”
Other hedging expressions:
- “Don’t you think?”
- “Isn’t it…?”
- “It’s no big deal.”
- “I’m not sure.”
- “I guess.”
- “I feel.”
- “I think.”
Make affirmative statements:
Instead of, “We might do that,” say, “I’ll explore that idea and get back to you.”
Instead of hedging, “Perhaps,” say, “I’ll consider that.” Express interest by saying, “Tell me more,” or, “How would that work?”
People know words like ‘perhaps’ or ‘maybe’ mean no.
When you’re exploring options say, “I’m exploring options.” Don’t say, “Maybe we’ll do that.” Instead of saying, “Perhaps,” say, “That’s an option. What needs to be true for that to work?”
Dancing around feeling:
It’s respectful to speak the truth with kindness. Verbal hedging implies people are too weak to handle the truth.
Acknowledge sensitive topics and speak truthfully. People who are easily offended control conversations by taking offense. When this happens explore it.
“What concerns you about this?”
“What did I do?”
“What do you want?”
Kindness, openness, and curiosity aren’t weaknesses, but hedging is.
I suppose it’s foolish to completely eliminate these words. They might be useful once in a while.
How can leaders speak clearly without sounding like jerks?
“Truly great book. A concise account of honesty, humility, and congruence. These are the best gifts this book offers to readers!” Reader’s comment after finishing our new book, The Vagrant: The Inner Journey of Leadership.