Confidence isn't binary. It isn't something you either have or don't. Rather, it's something you practice, grow into, and develop.

This is important because if you've developed an identity around "not being confident," you can just as easily develop the identity of "I'm growing my confidence." This is a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed one, and it matters. It changes you from the inside out.

One of the most basic ways to practice confidence is with your speech. Here are some terms to stop using if you want to supercharge your confidence:

1. Try

As in, "I'll try to make it to that meeting."

In this context, "try" really means "I don't want to do that, but I'll make it sound like I might so you won't be mad at me."

People-pleasers who don't want to say no will often use "try" to punt. Confident people don't do this. Instead, they follow Yoda's advice: Do or do not. There is no try.

2. Maybe

"Can you get this done by Friday?"

Most of us have a gut instinct when we're asked a question like this. We know what else we have going on and whether we have the bandwidth to take on another project. Counterintuitively, when you lack confidence you also tend to lack the conviction to say no. This often leads you to say something like, "Maybe..." hoping that by your tone of voice, the person will let you off the hook.

Instead, a confident person will simply say "No" when they know that's the answer that's called for. They might add, "However, I could get that done by next Wednesday." What they won't say is maybe when they mean no.

3. Can't

As in, "We can't do that."

It's not that confident people never fail--it's that they do fail. They're willing to take risks because they know that if things don't work out, they're resilient. They'll get knocked down but then get up again.

Thus, "We can't do that" becomes "This is risky, and I believe we can do it. And if it doesn't work out, we'll have each other's backs."

4. Alone

Speaking of having someone's back, confident people don't use the word "alone"--as in, "I'm all alone here."

This is because true confidence doesn't come from being a lone wolf. It comes from knowing you're part of something greater, whether that's your work team, your family, or your wider community.

Loneliness and isolation breed fear and worry, and confident people know this. When they feel lonely, they know how to self-soothe, which includes reaching out for connection or support. Even if it's not something they grew up with, it's something they've grown into. It is a skill that forms the foundation of true confidence.

5. Never

"This is never going to work."

Confidence is connected to creativity. It's the knowledge that you can generate solutions by being open to possibilities and being willing to depend on that even when answers haven't arrived yet.

Thus "This will never work" becomes "Fixing this will take a creative solution. Who's up for a brainstorming session?"

6. Um

Vocalized pauses ("um", "uh", etc.) are space-fillers. They often stem from wanting to look like you know what you're talking about.

Confident people, though, aren't afraid to take a pause and take a breath before responding. They'll say things like, "Give me a moment to reflect on that," and then take a few beats before sharing their thoughts. They don't feel like they need to know the answer right away, so they're able to dig deeper and share from a place of knowing rather than a place of wanting to look like they know. 

7. You know?

Speaking of knowing, ending every sentence with "You know?" is often a way of seeking safety by searching for agreement. But confidence doesn't require that everyone agrees with you all the time.

A good alternative to wean yourself off of this is to practice finishing stating your perspective or opinion. Then you can simply ask directly: "And what are your thoughts?"

---

"I like good strong words that mean something." --Louisa May Alcott

Published on: Aug 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.