Cut the hedges: A simple strategy for communicating with confidence, power and influence to increase your leadership effectiveness

Have you ever wondered how some people communicate effectively while others appear to lack confidence and are overlooked? How you communicate has a significant impact on your effectiveness as a leader.

Stuffing your communication with hedging words making no contribution to your message is a linguistic crime that decreases your ability to influence. 

Allow me to demonstrate: ‘Basically, what I’d like to do is to tell you all about hedging. I guess I think it’s really important. The point is, hedging

can reduce the authority of your words, and basically I feel it reduces your power. In my opinion you shouldn’t really let hedging into your conversation, because I just think your subconscious mind hears it too and the point is you will feel less confident.’

Compared to: ‘Hedging is important because it can reduce the authority of your words and reduce your power.You should keep hedging out of your conversation because your subconscious mind hears it too and will feel less confident.’

Notice the difference? The first is 69 words and sounds like hesitant waffle. The second is 36 words – clear and confident. If you think the first example is exaggerated I invite you to listen to people around you, and possibly yourself.

Hedging often occurs in the face of uncertainty and damages your authority as a speaker. It sounds to the listener as though you doubt your words. Hedging lengthens your sentences.

We are more likely to use hedging words under pressure, and sadly some of us have a favorite hedging phrase we use in almost every sentence. Women hedge more than men, often deliberately to soften their statements. (If this is you, explore other ways to speak softly without impacting your credibility.)

Here’s a few common hedges – which one weakens your communication?

  • In my opinion ….
  • I guess ….
  • I just ….
  • I would like to …..
  • I guess my question is ….
  • I’m not expert on that, but ….
  • I know I am only a junior, but ….
  • This many only be how I feel but …
  • I may not be right, but ….

When thinking about what to say, ask if the hedge you are about to include adds extra information. If not, don’t hedge. (Tip: It’s often easier to start with writing, so review past emails and see what hedges you could drop.)

How would cutting the hedges increase the confidence, power and influence of your communication?

Using the language of confidence, power and influence
Your communication style has a significant impact on your effectiveness as a leader. Through coaching and workshops, Corrinne helps leaders eradicate the language of weakness and build techniques for communicating with confidence, power and influence.
If you would like to read more on this topic, I recommend How to Say It For Women by PhillisMindell, Ed. D, published by Prentice Hall Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7352-0222-2.