I’m Sorry, But Women Should Just Speak Like the Leaders They Are

[Image from Pixabay]
“I just wanted to check in …”

“I think this is…”

“I’m no expert, but…”

“I’m sorry, but would you mind…”

How many of these phrases have you caught yourself saying? It’s okay to admit, we all do it – men and women of all ages, but women are often guilty of this subtle self-sabotage more often.

So how can you break the habit and start speaking like the leader you want to be? Like any bad habit – it’s tough! However, it is doable and well worth it. Now Tami Reiss, CEO of Cyrus Innovation, is making it her New Year’s resolution for 2016 and is doing so in a way that will help other women succeed as well.

Reiss’s company developed a Chrome browser extension, ‘Just Not Sorry,’ that helps to identify questionable words or phrases in your emails. The words in question will be recognized and then by scrolling over them you will gain more insight into the negative connotations of these all-too common phrases.

More times than not these words or expressions are used habitually, it’s almost as if they have been ingrained in our vocabulary subconsciously. Out of context these words seem so small and harmless, but they can dramatically change the tone of your correspondence professionally and personally.

Even without the app, you can reduce these phrases by being aware. Re-read your emails or memos before sending them specifically scanning for unnecessary qualifiers, apologies or anything else that may be subtly self-demeaning. Think about what you are going to say before speaking out loud. Remember, practice makes perfect.


  1. I would like more clarification between self-sabotaging and just being polite. I see it useful to take out the “I’m sorrys”, “I can’t” (depending on the context), and “I apologizes”, but “I think”? I don’t see how “I think” is diminishing, neither do the “Could you, please, would you”. An article making this distinction would be great.

  2. You make an excellent point Carolina – context means a great deal. Many of these words or phrases can be used in a way that subtly sabotages our message, but used properly would be fine. Below are good and bad examples using “I think” that should add some clarity.

    Good example: “Please let me know what you think about the plan.”
    ** This usage of “think” uses the word to politely ask for feedback. It does not reflect poorly on the subject or plan.

    Subtle sabotage: “I think I have a plan to solve the problem.”
    ** In this usage, “‘I think’ undermines your idea and displays an overall lack of self-confidence. — Lydia Dishman” – This is an example of what comes up when using the ‘Just Not Sorry’ Chrome extension.

  3. Great points and when I’m talking about email and other communication skills, I also suggest avoiding, ““Please let me know what you think about the plan.” Being more specific in the ask will yield a more useful response. I’d suggest: Please let me know if this plan has your approval or which sections you’d suggest I rework.
    The more effortless we can make the next step, the more likely the other person is to take it.
    Sue Hershkowitz-Coore; author, Power Sales Writing (McGraw Hill); How to Say it to Sell it (Penguin)

  4. What I see as a rising trend, and one that must be addressed, is the role that women have on other women in this regard. At 40 and in mid career and senior management position I find that whereas I did not use these “apologies for speaking, having ideas, and yeah…know a couple of things” earlier, I have introduced them into my verbal and written communication because I have been conditioned to do so primarily by other women slightly senior to me hierarchically.

  5. You make a great point Mary and it’s something that we need to be mindful of. I know that the same thing has happened to me dozens of times… all of a sudden I hear myself repeating the word “like” or inflecting “you know?” at the end of my sentences. I do find that once I recognize the language I can mindfully put an end to it, but the problem is picking up these bad habits in the first place.

Comments are closed.