Language Matters – Don’t Sound Unsure of Yourself

Man Lacking ConfidenceI can’t help but notice the prevalence of weak language I hear from other professionals. It’s kind of hard to take someone seriously when they, sort of, fill like their sentences with, like, meaningless fluff. Ya know what I mean, right?

Atomic’s atmosphere of open criticism has helped me focus on eschewing weakening filler language from my speech.

Carl first made me aware of my internalization and usage of weak, idiomatic language. We agreed that language has significant impact on the confidence and trust listeners will give a speaker. We made a pact to police each other’s usage of weak language.


Below, I’ve outlined several examples of weak language I commonly hear. I’ve contrasted the examples with stronger alternatives. I recommend reading the examples aloud so you can hear the difference. Ask yourself what version would give you more confidence and trust in the speaker.

Kind Of

Example: This storyboard kind of shows how a user can kind of interact with the new kiosk. You can see in the second panel how the kiosk kind of shows the product.

Atomic Preference: This storyboard shows how customers will interact with the new kiosk. The second panel shows how we will display the product.

Sort of

Example: We sort-of dug into the issue, and we think we have a few ideas that we might be able to explore.

Atomic Preference: We investigated the issue and have identified three next steps to pursue next week.


Example: So we all know the mobile API will be done in early June, right? And that should allow us to do integration testing soon after, right?

Atomic Preference: We’re confident we can finish integration testing by the first week of August if the mobile API is complete by the second week of June.


Example: We tried to, like, get the team in a good position for meeting our April milestone.

Atomic Preference: We created a plan to meet our April milestone.


Example: She’s kind of, ya’know, figuring out what a few views might, ya’know, look like for next week.

Atomic Preference: She’s finalizing the user profile and friends views so they are ready for development next week.

Speaking with Confidence

Speaking with Confidence

I challenge you to eliminate weak language in your speaking. Even more, I encourage you establish a pact with your colleagues similar to the one I have with Carl. Please leave a comment if you decide to accept my challenge.

I’d also appreciate you sharing any anecdotes related to weak language that you have experienced in the workplace.

  • Karl says:

    Great thoughts! I would like to add one of my personal areas of speaking improvement as well: the audible pause. An audible pause would include ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘hmm’, ‘err’. This is something that will immediately reduce a speakers credibility for me, and I am constantly conscious of them when I am speaking as well. Silence is golden, and people should fight the need to fill it with audible nonsense. The second or two of silence while you collect your thoughts is rarely noticed until you decide to highlight it with this guttural moan. Without them, it sounds more like you are measured in your thoughts and speech; taking your time to get it right.

  • Kelli says:

    Although I am guilty of communicating like this on occasion [especially after digesting a few beers] I find verbal diarrhea to be a major turn-off as well. I enjoy the idea of making a pact with a friend or colleague to police each other’s weak language.

    Brilliant post!!

  • I have always found verbal pauses to be distracting. I listened to a 10 minute speech a few weeks ago and counted 47 verbal pauses. I can’t even remember the topic of the speech!

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