Recently, the young woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines for being only 28, a Latina, and a self described socialist defeated an incumbent in her congressional primary.
And then more recently, I saw a headline from many conservative publications jumping on Ocasio-Cortez for admitting that “she wasn’t the expert” on relations on Israelis and Palestinians when talking about this issue.
This is a marketing / career blog, not one where I will even remotely approach things like politics, but I groaned when I saw this headline because I saw that this young woman had made the same mistake that so many young women (and men!) do, and one that I am constantly trying to break myself out of. She qualified her speech and diminished her authority by volunteering her “lack of expertise”. Sure, she doesn’t have a pHd in political science, but there is no reason she should undermine herself in this way when so many people are looking to her for leadership.
This is a verbal tick so many of us have. Like using “like”, “you know”, and “ummm”. Things like “I’m not sure this is the right answer but…”, and “this is probably wrong but”…or “hey I’m not an expert in this area but here’s what I know”. I’m not sure why we undermine our own authority, but I have some hypotheses. Perhaps it’s to be modest. Or out of fear of being “bossy”. Or out of fear that our idea really isn’t that good after all. Either way, it’s harming our credibility, our ability to convince others, and ultimate our ability to appear competent and trustworthy.
After probably my 1000th time insulting myself and diminishing my credibility prior to making an assertion, I resolved to stop this verbal tick and undermining myself.
“No more insulting yourself in business settings!”
This doesn’t mean you can’t tell others what your strengths and weaknesses are when it’s appropriate, or when you may need other’s help. It means that in most settings there is no reason to qualify what you want to say. Here are some other alternatives:
“Research has shown that…”
“In my experience I have seen that…”
“At my past company I learned that…”
Now granted, being “folksy” might be charming if you’re a 55 year old CEO with insane amounts of power. But for the rest of us, we gotta stop it.
That, and apologizing in work and social settings for no reason. But that’s a whollleeeee other post :).