I have good ideas. No, I have great ideas. And I used to apologize for them. At tables where I wasn’t sure if my voice was respected or where I may not have felt competent enough to contribute to the conversation, I would apologize for my great ideas.
Or use “just.” I’m sure you’ve done it, too. When you send a text or a note to a colleague or friend “Hey! Just wanted to check in with you. How are you feeling?” I was guilty of allowing that same language into my professional life, too. “I was just wondering…” or “I just wanted to run this idea by you…” Take a moment and take “just” out of each of those sentences and finish it with something you’re passionate about. Changes the impact, doesn’t it?
I have a bachelor’s degree in English, and have always known that words are powerful, but until it was pointed out to me via two readings shared by Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, one a blog post she wrote and the other an article she shared, I truly didn’t realize the impact of those words. Those words no longer exist in my vocabulary, unless they are being used in their true definition. “I’m sorry” is reserved for when I have made a mistake. If I feel myself getting ready to use the phrase, I have a (quick) internal dialogue and ask myself if I made a mistake. If the answer is no, I (quickly) figure out how to rephrase what I was about to say.
Once I stopped using those words in my language, I noticed how many of the women in my professional life apologize for being present, or make an attempt to be polite by inserting the word “just.” I have shared with many of them the impact those words have, and how we have the ability to make ourselves sound more confident, and as a result, be more confident in the work we do. I’m amazed and impressed with how these women have taken grasp of this concept, and wish I would have had someone in my corner like that as a younger professional.
As I have "grown up" in housing and residence life, I've mostly been supervised by men, which is likely not that uncommon. However, I have always longed for a mentor. A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about not having a mentor, but rather having multiple people to whom I look up to in the field and go to for a variety of things, both professional and personal. As I have become stronger and more confident in my role, I continue to take female staff members and students under my wing to help them be confident women in their roles.
In addition to being a strong role model to women, and helping women understand how to express themselves in a confident manner, I have also realized how that is impacting me as a new mom. My daughter watches me, and while cognitive development continues to develop, I am fully aware that she understands when mommy is being a strong role model. It is important to me that all women, and especially my daughter, have a role model who not only acts in ways that show confidence, but also speak to sound both confident and competent. Because so many women have been that for me, whether they realize it or not, I hope I am able to be that for other women!
How will you choose to sound more confident in the work you do? How can I help you get there?
Michelle Sujka is an assistant director for Resident Education & Development at the University of Cincinnati. She has spent her career progressing through residence life and continues to find energy around developing and supporting women throughout their journey. She is a wife to her husband, Scott, and momma to 10 month old McKenzie and 3 year old pup, Garbo. When she’s not spending time on campus, Michelle enjoys cheering for her favorite sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Blackhawks. Michelle looks forward to connecting with you on social media including Facebook. Twitter, and LinkedIn.