Are You Mitigating Your Speech? You Can Do Better

Some Great Idea Have you ever shared an idea by starting with, “this may not be true, but…” or “this might be a bad idea, but…” or “this might sound crazy, but….”

This is called “mitigating speech,” or “selling your ideas short before you’ve said them.” Women do this more than men. It feels self-protective (I’m not wrong! I knew it wouldn’t work!*) and deferential (you know more than I do). We’re socialized to be agreeable and non-threatening to others, powerful people in particular. Coming forth with an idea while self-deprecating feels like one way to make yourself agreeable.

But is it in your best interest downplay your ideas? What message does that send? Wouldn’t it be in your favor to stand behind your ideas with confidence?

Pitching ideas with confidence demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about. That you’re willing to take risks (even if it’s sharing an idea that’s only partially developed). That you want to contribute value, and that you’re comfortable trying and failing. To higher-ups, it shows that you are a candidate for advancement. Your idea might be bad. No one’s ideas are 100% awesome. But if all your ideas are bad but one, that’s a good day! And if someone is uncomfortable because your idea is great and you know it, well… haters will always hate.

Also: mitigating speech can send the message that you need validation for your ideas. Annoying.

Strong ways to introduce your ideas:
“what if we** tried….” or
“have we considered…” or
“I was thinking…” or simply
“I have an idea.”

If you’re brainstorming and realize that your idea isn’t working, let people know: “now that I think about it, this won’t actually work for x reason.” Or better, “as I think it through, I realize that it would be better if it were like this.” Put forth your ideas with confidence, show that you’re critically thinking them through, and that you’re not afraid to acknowledge when your ideas need tweaking.

*There’s nothing wrong with being wrong and admitting it. Know when you need help or input, or when you can improve upon your own ideas. This is a valuable skill in all relationships. Inability to be flexible will annoy everyone more than expressing great ideas with gusto.

**If you want to emphasize collaboration and teamwork without mitigating your speech, use the first person plural.

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About Eva

I make your online business project better. I write about careers, being, productivity, and money.
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