People use certain words and phrases all the time without really knowing why.

Like, somehow we let a wide range of fillers, um, dribble into our speech, you know?

I think is one particular filler that I frequently hear. Perhaps you tell your friend, "I think I'm going to stay in tonight" when--in reality--you know that you're staying in.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this practice. Indeed, according to John Ayto, author of several English language reference books, filler words have been used since Anglo-Saxon times to make sentences run smoother.

But the question bears asking: Why add that modifier? It doesn't enhance your position; actually, it betrays a subtle lack of confidence--as if you don't have the firmness to back your position.

And in the business world, it poses the potential for adverse affects, implying that you don't take responsibility for your stance or that you're operating from a guess rather than hard fact.

For your business to grow, your current and potential clients have to have confidence in your ideas and decisions. They don't want to hear that you think that your position is good; they want you to know it.

Own the Situation

Whether you're a professional consultant speaking with a client, an executive addressing your team, or an employee voicing an opinion, if you want to be heard and respected, you need to own your words.

Take, for example, an interaction I recently had with a client who wanted to know whether I thought it was a good idea to spend half a million dollars on an office face-lift.

I could have said, "I think so," and left it at that, but that doesn't really provide any useful insight or add value to our interaction. If I were to respond to every client in such a limp manner, I suspect my phone would stop ringing.

Instead, I told him I liked the idea and clearly explained why. By speaking from a position of confidence and backing up my response with legitimate data from my area of expertise, I allowed him to make an informed decision.

Curb Your Lack of Enthusiasm

There are a number of things you can do to break the habit of playing it safe rather than having the confidence to assert what you know to be right. Here are five practical techniques I recommend:

1. Mix up your word choices. Consciously strive to use words or phrases with confidence behind them. Some examples include: we believe, we suggest, our plan is, our recommendation is, etc.

2. Research. Using data to support your position makes it more valuable than your opinion alone. Once you start doing this, you will find yourself having to explain yourself less.

3. Employ visual support. A picture truly is worth a thousand words, and if you use visually pleasing collateral, it will go a long way in supporting your position.

4. Use context. If you're recommending something, try to explain how it applies by using a real-world example or a compelling anecdote.

5. Maintain a commanding tone. Make sure your tone reflects an I know attitude. You might claim to know something, but if you sound uncertain, people will quickly lose confidence in you.

Years ago, I realized I was speaking from an I think position far too often. So I cut the phrase from my business vocabulary and bolstered my assertions with hard research and data. Since then, I've seen a drastic shift in client confidence, which has afforded me improved freedom with my clients, decreased client maintenance, and better retention.

At the end of the day, when it comes to expanding a business, confidence is key. So stop indicating a lack of confidence out of a mere linguistic habit. If you know something, own it. Your clients will appreciate the change and so will your bottom line.

Published on: Sep 8, 2014
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