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How to Speak So You’re Taken Seriously

Yolanda was disappointed. Once again, she had summoned up the courage to put forth an idea at a board meeting, yet nobody picked up on it. She wondered why her ideas were frequently pushed aside, both at home and at work. This happens much too often, thought Yolanda. I must be doing something wrong.

Nothing was wrong with Yolanda’s ideas, but a great deal was wrong with her presentation. How we express ourselves is significant. Using certain words and phrases make you, and your ideas, sound insignificant. Here are a few examples:


  • I think
  • I guess
  • I don’t know
  • maybe
  • might
  • probably
  • “I don’t know if you like this idea, but I think it’s probably something that might be good.”

Nix the naysayer words. Be your own best advocate by putting forth your idea without qualifiers.

Tag Questions:

Ending a sentence with:

  • isn’t it?
  • don’t you think?
  • does that make sense to you?”
  • “I think this idea might work, don’t you think?”

Tag questions suggest uncertainty. If you want to check in on what others think, ask them directly for feedback after your presentation.

Filler Words:

  • like
  • actually
  • pretty much
  • kind of
  • just
  • um
  • “I, um, had this idea that I think might be pretty much, um, good; it’s kind of what just might fit our budget.”

Using these words frequently will make you sound more like a kid than an adult with valuable ideas that are worth listening to.

Weakening words:

  • I’m no expert but….
  • I’m not sure but….
  • It’s just a crazy idea I had but…, I just thought.
  • “I’m no expert and it may be just a crazy idea I had, but I’d like to run it by you.”

Don’t downplay the significance of your statement before you even put your idea out there. Begin with strength and solidity, not with flaws and failings.

Suggesting dishonesty:

  • To tell you the truth
  • to be perfectly honest
  • in all honesty.”
  • “To tell you the truth, I think this idea will resolve the problem.”

Hey, wait a minute. Have you been lying to me all the time? Is this your one truthful statement? Use these phrases and don’t be surprised if people question your veracity.

Asking a question rather than making a statement:

  • When do you think we should leave?
  • What do you think we should do about….?

If you want something, say it. Don’t ask a question. If you do, the response you receive might sound like this: “You just asked me what time I want to leave. I told you at 7. Now you tell me we have to leave by 6. Why are you giving me a hard time?”

It’s difficult to change our speech patterns. We’re rarely conscious of how we express ourselves. But difficult does not mean impossible. A nip and tuck here and there will result in your being perceived as a more effective, eloquent, compelling communicator.


Business presentation photo available from Shutterstock

How to Speak So You’re Taken Seriously

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Dr. Linda Sapadin, psychologist, success coach and author is proud to announce the publication of her new book, Overcoming Your Procrastination: College Student Edition – Advice for 6 Personality Styles available on Amazon. Now more than ever with remote learning, this book is a must-have. If you’re a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or please, grab your copy. No longer a student? Get my book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age – 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles. Visit to subscribe to my free e-newsletter. Contact her at

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). How to Speak So You’re Taken Seriously. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.