Don’t de-authorize yourself

One thing you should certainly not do at work is make your job harder than it actually is, but many people, especially women, do that all the time, every time they send email and often when they speak.  They do it with phrases that take away their own authority: “I don’t know, I just thought of this, but…” “I don’t really mean to be complicating the requirements further, but…”  “This may not be right…” “I was just thinking that…” “Of course this could be wrong…”

There’s a way to remind yourself to stop writing those self-de-authorizing phrases.  This exercise is most effective if you do it with two colleagues, one in your group or field and one not.  You’ll find the steps below. and detailed instructions, in this Excel template.

  1. Review your recent emails, say the last 25 or so, and identify phrases that take away your authority.  Write them down, and count how often each phrase appears.
  2. Exchange lists with your two colleagues: each person should check his or her emails again for phrases the others have found in their own.
  3. Devise alternative phrases to replace self-se-authorizing ones, or decide to omit the phrases altogether
  4. Print the list. and tape it to your monitor or put it by your keyboard.
  5. Before you send another email, search for those phrases, and take them out.  Voila!  Shorter, more decisive emails!

You’ll find that, over time, consciously weeding these phrases out of your email will help you remove them from your speech as well.  That’s harder than weeding them out of your email, but still doable.

Important note: uncertainty is not the same as indecisiveness.  If you’re uncertain, you can say so without sounding wimpy: “I don’t currently know the best solution to this problem, but of options A, B, and C, I recommend B, for these reasons.”