4 Common Phrases That Show You Lack Confidence

Confidence is a trait that seems vague and unattainable to those who don’t have it. Confidence, or the lack thereof, makes itself apparent in many ways, especially in how we speak. These are the four common phrases that show you lack confidence. Are you guilty of using any of these? While there isn’t a glossary of phrases to say that will instantly make you more confident the following tips could be useful in helping you be more assertive and direct and, in time, more confident.

  1. “Sorry To Bother You…”

To be clear; there is nothing wrong with being polite and respectful. That being said, “sorry to bother” implies a lot in different contexts. Using this phrase may make you appear timid and as if you do not believe what you have to say is important enough to bring up. Rather than starting with “sorry to bother you” it would be more helpful to open with “excuse me”. This is a more useful phrase as it comes across as a respectful but firm command. It shows that what follows holds importance and that you simply must be excused for interrupting. Context is important, behaving in an actively disruptive manner does not show confidence – it displays a lack of self-awareness. 

2. “If It’s Okay…”

This is a common phrase used by both confident and timid people. The key is how it is said and where it is placed in the sentence. A confident person uses the phrase diplomatically, for example, “If it’s okay with you I would prefer it if we met at 1.” This way their stance is clear while still coming across as though they are not forcing anyone to adhere to their wishes. The truth is that using the phrase this way makes it difficult for people to disagree with them. 

On the other hand, someone who lacks confidence would phrase the same idea this way, “I would prefer if we met at 1, if it’s okay.” By ending the sentence with “if it’s okay” it makes your stance seem debatable and therefore easy to disagree with. 

Neither of these examples are disrespectful but one is certainly more commanding and likely to win over those whom you are addressing. 

3. “I Just…”

“I just…” is an easy way to sound like you aren’t fully committed to what you are about to say. It makes your sentences weaker and less assertive. It can even go as far as to make it seem like you are apprehensive about your own ideas. “I just thought…” or “… It’s just an idea” make it easy for others to dismiss you. According to Dale Carnegie, to build self-confidence the first step is to start with a strong and persistent desire. You cannot reveal any doubts. Speak with clarity, brevity and confidence by removing “I just” and reveal the strength and persistence in your desires.

Instead of, “I just thought that maybe we could split the cost of gas.” Speak with sincerity and clarity, believe in what you are saying. A confident person would state their motivations in a clear way that they can justify to those who they wish to convince; “We should split the cost of gas, it’s a long drive to get there.” 

There are no further implications and no avenues for debate. Instead of “I just” use clear words such as “we should”, “I will”, “you can”, etc. 

4. “I’m Worried…”

The phrase “I’m worried” is  one that carries with it many implications. To worry or show concern is not something that shows a lack of confidence on its own. However when placed in a sentence, “I’m worried that some people might feel like they’re missing out” It may seem sincere to you but in reality it comes across as though you are speaking indirectly. 

As a rule that applies to all of these, always speak directly when you can. Do not express your concerns by vaguely hinting towards them. If the concerns are your own and only apply to yourself it is okay to be clear with that information. By being clear it shows that you are confident that your concerns are valid. 

“I’m worried I won’t make it on time.” Is vague and baseless. It would take a lot more convincing to make that sound sincere than if you removed “I’m worried.”

“I won’t make it on time.” Is sincere and clear. It doesn’t sound like an excuse. Being upfront and honest with your peers shows confidence and respectability. 

It Isn’t What You Say It’s How You Say It

It can be difficult to track what you’re saying under state-anxiety so while you’re working on becoming more confident remember; it isn’t always what you say – it’s how you say it. As mentioned in the introduction to this article, there is no single way to appear more confident. Confidence is influenced by numerous factors and will fluctuate over a lifetime. There are certain skill areas, as outlined by Gene Gousie, that enable effective communication in any setting. To name a few; tone of voice, hand gestures, eye contact, pace and enthusiasm/knowledge. These can all affect how you speak and how you appear to those who you are engaging with. 


G. Gousie (1997) Speaking With Confidence. Paper presented at the Annual Training Conference of the National Head Start Association (24th, Boston, MA, May 25-31, 1997).

D. Carnegie (1927) How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People Through Public Speaking. Gallery Books

D. Carnegie (1936) How to Make Friends and Influence People. Musaicum Books

L. Greenacre, N. M. Tung & T. Chapman (2014) Self Confidence, and The Ability to Influence Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

L. Kelly and A. K. Watson (1986) Speaking with Confidence and Skill  University Press of America

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