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How To Sound Confident When Talking To Important People


Sounding confident when you’re asking for a raise, at work, giving a presentation or getting interviewed for a job can, sometimes, make or break you. Recent studies have shown that employers believe millennials are poor communicators and lack the collaborative skills to work on a team. If you’re anything like me, hearing this news will have left you in a stuttering panic, wondering if you are a complete doofus and if you say, “um,” and “like,” too much. I definitely do, get used to it old men in charge of things with all the money!

With this in mind there are actually a few bad habits we could all, myself included, break in order to sound more confident expressing our ideas. If you sound like you’re questioning your assertions, other people are going to question them too and take you less seriously. Life after college is hard enough so let’s not sweat the small mistakes we can easily change. Remember, you have a degree, you have a brain, you are totally capable now show ’em what you got!

Don’t Use Qualifying Phrases

If you feel like you’re bothering someone when you’re simply asking a totally valid question or making a totally reasonable suggestion, it’s easy to insert words like, “just” or “kind of,” or “I’m just thinking off the top of my head.” Saying, “I just wanted to see how things are going,” makes you sound as though you’re a nuisance when you’re just doing your job. Saying, “I kind of think,” or “I’m just thinking off the top of my head,” makes you sound as though you’re not fully committed to your idea.

Any phrase that undermines or questions the thoughts that follow it needs to be eliminated from your vocabulary. (At work.)


I say “sorry” about a million times a day for things I am not responsible for in any way. Someone bumps into me and I say, “Sorry!”Making yourself accountable for things that aren’t your fault or don’t warrant an apology can make you appear timid. There is no need to apologize for “taking up someone’s time,” there is no need to apologize for needing to ask a question for more clarification, there is no reason to apologize for speaking your mind. Apologizing for those things is the equivalent of apologizing for existing. I think therefore I am. 

Don’t Shy Away From Offering Criticism 

It’s hard to just come right out and say when something is bad or when you don’t agree with something. You may not say anything at all or you may sound like you’re complaining. Before you leap right into what is problematic give at least two reasons why certain aspects are actually good. “You’ve done an excellent job at A and B, but I think C could be developed some more.” This will be even more effective if you can offer a solution or an option for a solution. “How about we try [insert idea here].” Most importantly you should sound open to coming to a resolution as opposed to dismissive of someone’s idea, “It would be great if we could brainstorm C to get it on the same level as A and B.”

Talking Too Fast

omgomgomgIdothisallthetiiiiiime. I’ve gotten better at it. It’s OK to speak slowly and deliberately, it’s what Barack Obama does, right? If you find yourself stumbling over your words, it’s OK to pause and take a deep breath. If I am having trouble continuing a thought, I’ll acknowledge it out loud then re-articulate my thought from the beginning.

Make Eye Contact

It’s natural for me at this point to dart my eyes when I am speaking because I am searching for my thoughts or I’ll start to look away after looking someone in the eyes for a while. I find that there are very few people that I feel comfortable making eye contact with consistently throughout a conversation. Making eye contact is important. It indicates to your audience that you’re not afraid of them and also shows that you’re trying to connect with them. You don’t want to appear distracted when communicating because that reads as carelessness, especially when its just nerves.

Quit Fidgeting 

Ah, I do this. I can never stop moving my eyes. There’s a difference between gesturing with your hands which is fine and constantly playing with what’s in front of you. Sometimes, I’ll subconsciously hug myself. Aye yie yie. Nervous movements don’t only reveal you to be nervous but they are also a distraction to your audience. Keep clicking that pen and see if anyone is still listening.

Don’t Inflect At The End Of A Sentence

Millennials love to inflect or “uptalk” at the end of a sentence, causing it to sound more like a question than a statement. There’s a difference between, “The sky is blue,” and “The sky is blue???” The former indicates that you know what you’re talking about, the latter suggests you’re questioning your very own statement. People shouldn’t have to worry about whether you are asking or telling them.

[Image via. Shutter Stock]

    Emerald is an editor at CollegeCandy, lover of coffee, and pretend francophile. After studying writing and popular culture at NYU she decided to be a grownup and get a job. Tweet at ya' girl @EmeraldGritty.