Language Habits and Professional Identity

The way clients and team members perceive your professional identity is a critical aspect throughout your career. As a woman, I’ve learned that the way others perceive you takes especially careful cultivation, more so than our male counterparts. We don’t get the same margins for error and once an impression is formed, it is often less forgiving than when men forge their professional identity.

Studies show that it only takes seven seconds to formulate an opinion about someone; some studies show even less. There have been many articles written about making the best of those seven seconds, but what happens after those first moments are over?

Hopefully, you’ve made a positive first impression. Assuming you have, how do you maintain and reinforce that professional image?

Awareness and Reduction of Filler Words

Our generation has become accustomed to reducing text to a series of “lol’s”, “omg’s”, and “haha’s” which often bleed into our casual day-to-day speech. While this may simply be a form of language evolution, the casual spoken form of our language often lacks the capacity to be a productive language form. From a business perspective, it is important to tailor our linguistic habits to the social circles in which we are speaking. As consultants, the social circles with which we engage vary widely, but almost all of them keep the closest eye on how women and other minorities express themselves.  Although this is a general societal flaw and not merely limited to our industry, as professionals working with clients every day, we must persist in our day-to-day interactions to address our own linguistic shortcomings.

When we are put into a professional setting, we often end up relying on filler words because we aren’t accustomed to speaking more formally without the language habits we’ve picked up. For me, I tend to overuse filler words such as “like” and “um,” and have to continuously force myself to be hyper-aware of them before every meeting. Taking a deliberate pause rather than filling in gaps with filler words comes across as more professional, less juvenile, and often even intensely thoughtful.

Avoid Insecure Speech

Linguistic habits and presentation play a major role in shaping opinions of people and attaching lasting impressions. Certain phrases that sound self-absorbed or narcissistic can convey the perception of self-doubt rather than confidence. That’s not saying that you shouldn’t take credit or be confident in your capabilities and accomplishments, because you absolutely should. But there is a very fine line between arrogance and confidence. Learn to speak about yourself and your accomplishments tactfully. A great piece of advice I recently read was “a confident person makes everyone around them better. A cocky person tries to make himself look better than others.”

Other Language Habits

We all have language habits that end up defining us, some more obvious than others. Take for example political figures such as George W. Bush and his pronunciation of the word “nuclear,” or Donald Trump and the way he consistently emphasizes the word “huge.” These particular instances have become sources of ridicule. These are extreme cases, but try to pinpoint what your language habits are and whether they affect others’ perception of you negatively or positively. In a consultancy firm, such as Tivix, forming good language habits is an essential part of being a good communicator.

Language is an essential part of our daily lives. Use it to your advantage to create the professional identity you want others to perceive. Speak clearly, speak with intention and be confident in your capability to convey your thoughts effectively.