If suddenly the building you’re in burst into gigantic, explosive flames, who would you follow to safety? The guy standing meekly by the exit whispering, “I think it’s this way, you guys?” or the guy who booms in a calm, confident, steady, self-assured voice, “THIS WAY.” (Sorry, ladies, following Vin Diesel is not an option.)
As humans, we instinctually crave this kind of confidence. We want to feel confident, too, so naturally, we’re drawn to it.
This is why we cringe when we hear someone talk and they’re all “um” and “like.” HOW HARD IS IT TO TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY? Really hard. Like, get this guy a Xanax. He’s not even in charge of his speech; how can he be in charge of anything else?
I know you know what I’m talking about. You cringe when you hear the stuttery, disjointed speech too, right?
Well, guess what. I HAVE HORRIBLE NEWS.
You don’t have to be speaking to sound like an unconfident, fearful schmuck. Your writing can make you sound that way, too.
A lot of people ask me what they’re doing wrong. No one’s following them. No one’s reading what they’re writing. No one’s caring what they’re saying.
And sometimes, the answer is as simple as this: They don’t believe you.
We’ve all got this annoying habit of tempering our writing, our thoughts, our ideas with language that mitigates the risk. The risk of having someone disagree. The risk of sounding too pompous. The risk of someone countering our ideas.
So we say things like:
“In my opinion …”
“I’m not sure if you’ve experienced this, but…”
“Without wanting to offend anyone, ______”
And we take all the wind right out of our words. Do you know something as little as prefacing your ideas with “I think” can be incredibly disempowering? It’s your writing; we already know it’s what you think. We don’t need the extra disclaimer. Get to the idea. Prefacing a statement with “I think” sounds like you’re asking permission for your thoughts. And confident leaders—the self-assured man guiding you out of the building—isn’t saying, “I think we should go this way.” He’s saying “LET’S GO.”
I know it can be scary to put yourself out there and say what you really want to say.
But if the goal is to be taken seriously as a leader in your field?
Then act like a leader you must.
Because asking for permission to lead isn’t how movements get made.