Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Today, Lindsay and Michelle share what words and phrases make you sound weak in Business English, how to avoid them, and what to use instead.

Listen in on the conversation and learn how to be fearlessly fluent and confident in English especially at work.

Sound confident in the corporate world and level up your English skills in the corporate world today.

Are You Confident?

Michelle asks Lindsay if she thinks about how confident she sounds.

Lindsay does think quite a bit about it but she does not obsess about whether she sounds confident or not.

She believes that words are very important in showing confidence.

If you use the wrong words, you may feel confident but you won’t sound confident.

Michelle agrees with this.

You may feel confident, but using the wrong words would make you look otherwise.

This is important most especially in the business world when you are a non-native English speaker.

You may be skillful and very capable but if you don’t sound like you do, it may be unsettling or hinder your career growth.

How To Sound Confident?

Michelle shares a unique article from CNBC entitled: Want to sound more confident? Avoid these 11 words and phrases that make you look ‘weak,’ say grammar experts.

In this article, the authors, Kathy and Ross Petras list out words that make you sound less confident.

They give 11 examples but Lindsay and Michelle choose only a few and explain each one.

  • “Maybe we should try”

If you start your sentence with “maybe”, you sound like you are uncertain of what you are saying.

Instead, you should use “Let’s try” or “It’s a good idea to try…..”

To show confidence you should be intentional and direct with what you say, especially in business.

Avoid sounding unsure by starting your sentence with “maybe.”

  • “I’m not positive, but …” or “I’m not sure, but …”

Lindsay mentions that she agrees with what the article says that using “I’m not sure, but…” at the beginning or end of your sentence, is a waste of breath.

Michelle agrees and says that if you are saying something and then adding “but” sound like you are putting yourself down.

To put yourself down means to insult yourself.

Avoid mentioning a disclaimer when you are suggesting something or sharing an idea.

It makes you sound unsure and unreliable. In the business English setting, you want to show you have the skills and you can add value.

  • “Sorry to bother you.”

Lindsay agrees with the article that you should use “excuse me” instead of “sorry to bother you.”

It sounds more direct and intentional.

Using sorry too often makes you sound timid.

You don’t have to eliminate using it completely, but just be cautious on how often you say it.

Again, you don’t want your colleagues to see you as weak.

Using “excuse me” when going to someone else’s office or to interrupt a conversation is more direct than starting your sentence off with “sorry…”

  • ”[X] was developed to increase [X].”

The resonating theme in all this is to always be direct with what you say.

Do not beat around the bush and keep talking in general.

In this example, it sounds like you are not taking ownership of what you are sharing with your colleagues.

If you are reporting something at a work meeting that is positive and you had a hand in the good news, you should be confident and say “I developed X to increase X.”

Don’t be passive.

There is nothing wrong with owning up to the good things you’ve done.

Lindsay shares an interesting fact that men in the corporate world tend to take more credit than women.

So if you are a woman, be cautious of the way you speak in the workplace.

Don’t hesitate to speak up and be intentional. There is nothing wrong with saying you accomplished something, especially when you get good results.

You are expected to contribute to the company and sharing the good news about your accomplishment is a big win for everyone.


Lindsay and Michelle do a short roleplay to help you understand how to use the examples.

The scenario is Lindsay and Michelle are colleagues.

They are working on a project. Michelle goes to Lindsay’s office.

Michelle: Excuse me— I’m here to check in on the project!

Lindsay: Yes let’s meet. I was thinking about our strategy. Let’s try checking in with our customers in a month instead of in just a week. That will give us more time.

Michelle: Definitely. This could be the big change we’ve been looking for. (Take note, she didn’t use “I’m not sure.”)

Lindsay: Exactly. I developed this strategy to increase our sales and productivity, that’s what I will tell the boss.

Michelle: It is really a great idea.

Disclaimer: You don’t have to use all the examples in one conversation. 

Pay attention to how Lindsay and Michelle spoke in this role play by listening to the audio at the top of this blog post.

They sound confident and knowledgeable about what they do.

Both of them sound like they are contributing equally to the project.

No one is unsure or just on the sidelines and listening to what the other has to say.


The key takeaway from today’s discussion is to be straight and direct to show confidence.

In the corporate setting, it is important to use the right words and phrases to match your confidence level.

If you keep using words that make you sound weak, your colleagues may have an image of you that you will not be happy about.

Think about the language you use.

When you are practicing your English use direct and intentional words.

Do not insult yourself and lift yourself up in front of others.

What makes you feel more confident? Share in the comments down below. We look forward to sharing your stories.

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