5 Questions That Make You Sound Less Confident, Therapists Say
There are more assertive ways to get your point across.
While confidence is key, it's difficult to maintain all of the time. According to Psychology Today, it's estimated that approximately 85 percent of the world's population is impacted by low self-esteem; so if you've ever felt like your confidence is wavering, you're not alone. Body language and how you present yourself are often cited as ways you demonstrate self-assurance, as well as how you speak and interact with others. But sometimes the things you say can actually hurt you—especially if you're asking the wrong questions. We consulted therapists to find out what questions you're asking that could be making you sound less confident. Read on to find out what you might want to rephrase.
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"Do you think I should…?"
There's no harm in asking for a second opinion on something, especially if you're about to make a big decision. Nevertheless, phrasing is important. By asking a friend if they think you should do something, you're inadvertently taking away from your own independence, Ronnie Adamowicz, MA, psychotherapist, counselor, and life and wellness coach, tells Best Life.
"Phrased in the above manner ('do you think I should'), it takes away autonomy from the one who is asking it, and ultimately hands it over to the other, sending a clear message that they are unsure in themselves, and ultimately portrays them as not being confident," Adamowicz says.
If you're seeking someone else's opinion, he recommends switching up how you ask for it, instead requesting feedback and saying, "I'd like to get your opinion on how I should [do this]."
"This simple shift puts the power back in the person asking the question," Adamowicz explains.
"Are you mad at me?"
Feeling like someone is angry or upset with you is never fun, and for people who don't like to rock the boat, it can be downright distressing. But according to Ieva Kubiliute, wellness psychologist, sex and relationships advisor, and freelance writer at It's Me and You, you shouldn't explicitly ask someone, "Are you mad at me?"
"You will often ask this question if you have a habit of misinterpreting social cues and overthinking yourself to tears," she says. "Sometimes, it is a result of damaged self-esteem in that you assume that people's actions depend on how you act."
This can give you the appearance of being unsure of yourself, and by extension, less confident. Instead of assuming someone is angry with you, ask them instead how they're feeling—you might be surprised to find out that the issue has nothing to do with you.
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"Do I look OK?"
Many people have struggled with body image. This can directly affect self-confidence, particularly if you feel like your appearance doesn't align with social norms. If you're seeking validation on what you're wearing or how you've styled your hair, therapists recommend looking inward as opposed to asking others what they think.
Similar to asking if someone's mad at you, asking if you "look OK" is a "reassurance-seeking question," Andrea Rowell, MSW, RSW, a social worker based in Toronto, says.
"Reassurance-seeking is a key feature of anxiety, especially a mix of anxiety and low self-esteem," she notes. "People may show that they're happy to give you reassurance, but this may be enabling you to trust yourself less."
Rowell adds that these kinds of questions "make it obvious" to those around you that you lack faith in yourself—a perception that may also be associated with lower confidence.
"Why don't you do it?"
Another way you construe a lack of confidence is by asking others to take on tasks you could do yourself. If you pass off an opportunity to a friend or colleague and add something to the effect of "you're better at it than me anyway," you're only bringing yourself down
"Self-deprecation is a common trait among individuals who suppress their insecurities," Kubiliute says. "However, it's a bad trait, especially if [you're] qualified for the task."
Experts say you shouldn't belittle your own credibility or question your abilities, as doing so will "stain your self-confidence," she points out.
If you truly feel like someone is better equipped for the job, consider your phrasing. Kubiliute recommends asking, "You seem to have so much expertise at this. Could you teach me the ropes so I can improve my skills?"
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"Was what I did OK?"
Asking for reassurance that your actions were appropriate is yet another question that makes you sound less confident. Again, you're looking for outward validation and insinuating that you need someone else to confirm that you haven't done anything wrong.
According to Rowell, you can think of a different way to phrase reassurance-seeking questions, but it might be best to ask yourself why you're posing them in the first place. "You could also consider whether or not these questions come from a deeper place of needing some support with building self-esteem," she tells Best Life.