I am a strong believer when it comes to speaking with assertion. Assertive language is empowering and oozes confidence when communicating with others. when you think about your own use of language, I wonder if you might catch yourself using words which betray or reveal a lack of self-confidence.
Two such examples of this I noted yesterday when giving feedback to a woman who had just constructed a cover letter. I’m going to share these two examples, but I caution you first not to roll your eyes as you read what they are and say to yourself these are no big deal. Why do I say this? Because it’s inevitable that some readers will in fact think it’s not a big deal and that I’m being overly picky. Be open I say, and read on.
The first small gaff came in the second sentence where she said, “I believe I have the qualifications stated…”. Note how the word, ‘believe’ in this case weakens the statement. Do you have the qualifications or not? Or maybe you believe you have the qualifications when in fact you don’t. If you eliminate the first two words from the sentence it now reads, “I have the qualifications stated…”. In the revised sentence, it is a statement of fact; I have what you want.
The second such example I pulled from her cover letter came in the final paragraph, which had the impact of leaving an otherwise fairly well composed letter on a weak note. It ended, “I’d like to request an interview…”. Can you spot the words setting up a weak request? Omit the words, “I’d like to request” and replace them with, “I am requesting”. After all if you’d like to request an interview why don’t you?
Now some folks get all worried because they are concerned that assertive words will be misconstrued as aggressive words. They are concerned that aggressive language sounds pushy, and the last thing they want to do is come across as demanding. There is a difference between assertive and aggressive I’d point out, and I have been often told by those who read resumes for companies that they look for people to state they want an interview if that is their goal.
Consider this sentence: “I am requesting an interview to demonstrate in-person the skills, qualifications and personal qualities I have which uniquely qualify me for this position.” Now the reader is aware that your goal is to get an interview and you are being courteous but clear. The sentence also tells them you are uniquely qualified and you are prepared to demonstrate that. What is also evident is that you are aware skills and qualifications alone aren’t going to be enough – as others will have identical skills and qualifications – but you’ve got the desired personal qualities that make you an ideal fit.
Here’s another example of language that betrays a lack of self-confidence and reveals skepticism of achieving personal success; the use of the word, “if” instead of the word, “when”. “If I get an interview”. “If I get a job offer.” I hear these when working with unemployed people who will ask me, “If I get an interview can you help me prepare for it?” By changing the single word, “if” to “when”, it becomes, “When I get an interview, will you help me prepare for it?”
There is an immediate change in the message sent. Getting an interview suddenly goes from a wish to a certainty. “Oh I’m getting an interview make no mistake.” The use of the word, “if” comes across as, “Gee I’d love an interview but I have my doubts I’ll be that lucky.” One word changes the whole message conveyed.
Now imagine if someone – possibly you – used the word, “if” over and over, and in letters used passive language like, “I believe”, “I’d like to” etc. The cumulative impact is that you come across as insecure, lack self-confidence and the underlying impression you are unwittingly conveying is that if you have self-doubts about your abilities, maybe they should too. The alternative leaves the impression that if you are confident in your skills and abilities to perform the job, maybe they should too.
This shift is something I share with people I work with in my job hunting groups. I put it on the board and it reads, “In this room it’s “When” not, “If”. I task myself with listening for the instances of, “if” and correct the person stating these. I am thrilled to say that after a very short period of time, people catch themselves and correct themselves, and then the language changes. So big deal you say? The language alone isn’t all that changes. I’m not just correctly written and verbal language, I’m working on creating a mental shift in self-perception.
This is only one of many small things which I pass along to my job seekers. When they put all these little things together, I can see (and more importantly they can feel) a change in how they conduct themselves and apply themselves in their efforts. Communication skills improve, self-esteem is being rebuilt and a transformation is underway. The result is a much more appealing and strong applicant who comes across better in the interview as well as the resume and cover letter.
Hopefully you find this helpful. Catch yourself, mind your words. All the very best today!