Women are notorious for downplaying their thoughts, opinions and emotions – so they don’t upset or bother the people around them. We spend much of our lives almost apologising for our actual existence. And that has led to a bed habit of using diminishing language in our spoken and written communication. But if you want to be seen and be taken seriously, you need to STOP using these five words, right now.

Do you even notice  how many words sneak into our spoken and written dialogue, that are only there to diminish what we are saying and discredit us as the smart, driven women we are?

These words often seem like a harmless attempt to soften the impact, to help us come across as more gentle and approachable. In fact, we are so good at this habit we mostly don’t realise we even say them.

I recently listened to the audio book version of Tara Mohr’s Playing Big – and HIGHLY recommend all women, everywhere should read it.

It is an amazing book and in it Tara talks about the Inner Critic, how to find your Inner Mentor and one of my favourite chapters is all about YOUR CALLING and doing the work you are meant to do in the world. But Chapter 8 is titled, Communicating with Power and it is dedicated to looking at WORDS and particularly the ones we ladies use to diminish ourselves on a regular basis.

 Why do we add words that UNDERMINE what we are really saying?

Because we are holding back. We are hiding. We are deliberately (although often, unconsciously) making ourselves small.


As women we are often juggling an internal struggle of stepping up and being assertive while still maintaining our approachable, nurturing feminine nature.

Tara shares common words or phrases that we use, often without even noticing it, to diminish and undermine our stance on something. I know I’m guilty of so many of them and when someone shines a light on them it becomes so obvious how much STRONGER and more confident we sound when we drop these little words of our language.

Words you need to STOP using now!

My most common nasties are certainly the HEDGES Tara talks about. These are the words we add into our sentences to soften our approach.


Say these statements out loud.

“I just wanted to ask you. . .”

“I am just concerned that . . .”

Are you guilty of JUST wondering, or JUST figuring? This is a pretty common one and it sounds innocent enough, until you try the same sentence again, without the just.

Say these out loud again and see if you notice a difference?

“I wanted to ask you. . .”

“I am concerned that . . .”


Obviously there are times and places that you will need to use the word ACTUALLY – but do you use it in a way that makes you sound less confident, like it should be a surprise to everyone that you have an opinion?

“I actually have a question. . .”

“I actually disagree with you. . .”

Again – try the same phrases, without the actually and see how much more powerful they sound!

“I have a question. . .”

“I disagree with you. . .”


Perhaps the worst hedge of all, I know myself, and too many ladies are all too guilty of this one.

“I kind of think we should try a new direction.”

“I have been kind of wondering if there is a better option?”

It’s like we don’t want to offend anyone by having a real opinion, so we make it sound half-assed. Try instead owning your thoughts and being proud to share them, or at least sounding like you are.

“I think we should try a new direction.”

“I wonder if there is a better option?”


Do you sound needy or desperate when you make requests to staff, suppliers or clients? Using “want” or “need” conjures up a feeling of dependency on your part, rather than of obligation and responsibility on the person you are making the request to.

“I need this report as soon as possible.”

“I want you to improve the quality of your work.”

Rephrase these statements just a little and they go from sounding pleading to empowered.

“Please have this report to me by next Friday.”

“Your work on this needs to be higher quality.”


Hands up all the ladies who say “I’m sorry” ALL THE TIME.


Of course there are times when apologies are appropriate and necessary. But using the last coffee pod in your office, having an opinion at a staff meeting, requesting better service from your suppliers or reminding your clients about an overdue invoice are NOT examples of things you should be apologising for!

For so many women, myself included, apologies are inexorably linked with our conception of politeness. Somehow, as we grew into adults, “sorry” became an entry point to basic affirmative sentences.

Sloane Crosley for the New York Times

These sorrys not only make us sound like we are apologising, simply for existing, but they are taking up airtime that should be used for making logical, declarative statements, expressing opinions and relaying accurate impressions of what we want.

And it’s time we did a lot less of the over-apologising, and a lot more of stating our truth.

Your Challenge

I have heard of this behaviour before but I’m so grateful Tara has brought it back to my attention and I am going to actively try and catch myself in the act and CHANGE the patterns around this dimishing langaue in my own spoken and written communication. I’d love to challenge you to do the same!

Pay attention to your own language over the next few days, and that of the women around you and see how many examples of these five words you notice.

What other examples can you pick up on?

Comment below and share which phrases or words you commonly use that actually take away from the strength of what you are saying. Let’s work together to brake the habits and lose these words for our daily communications.

Because we are smart, brave and driven women who have value to share with the world, so let’s start talking like it!


Elle loves few things as much as coffee and her three kids – but entrepreneurship and empowering women are certainly up there. Working for the past eight years as an online business coach, Elle has helped countless women build more strategy and profitability into their business, allowing them to do the work they love.

Currently working as an Online Business Manager at ElleRoberts.me, CEO and Community Champion at The Artful Business Community and now Editor in Chief here at The Worth Seekers – Elle likes to keep busy.

Her passion for personal finance and women’s financially literacy comes from a place of person struggle as well as experience working with countless clients over the years and watching them face the same issues over and over again when it comes to deal with money.