If you don’t have….

When I first started out in business, many years ago, I was excited, I was hopeful, and I was terrified as I headed to New York to start in an entry level job in publishing. Part of me was reasonably confident I was going to figure this out and I was excited to get to it.

Another part of me, the “downer” part, unfortunately, said things like “Who do you think you are to be….?” and “What makes you think you can….?”.

It’s not that this part didn’t want me to succeed, she was just trying to manage disappointment and humiliation by keeping the bar set very low. Her favorite strategy for saving me from failure was to throw up mountains of fear when it came to risk taking.

Because my more optimistic part was as strong and sometimes stronger, I took some of those risks anyway and in time my fear got smaller and smaller.

The more action I took, the more confident I became. I began to own the “feeling” of success, and loved it, of course. I was also, importantly, developing muscle memory for the process of failing and surviving – and getting back up and trying again.

Over time I learned that success at work and in life often come down to taking action. And when I’m nervous and frightened, I’ve learned to look for the smallest possible step that I can take and to start there.

What I wish for you, (reader) I also wish for my son and for all my beautiful, smart nieces and nephews – all in their 20’s. My wish for you is that is that you throw yourselves into your work with abandon. That you ask big questions (without worrying if they’re dumb) in order to inhale all the knowledge you can. I hope you will take ridiculously bold risks – caring not if you are right or wrong, but rather about what you will learn and what impact your good ideas can have.

I hope if any of you forget how smart and wonderful you are, and you find yourself stopped by fear, that you will find that smallest possible step you are able to take – and then take it.

I hope if you ever need a reminder of how capable and brave you are, you will have a network of people to whom you can turn for support and renewed courage.

And, if you don’t have that critical network of support (yet), I hope you call me.


Emily Barrosse
Founder and CEO
Bold in Business
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As a Professional Woman, are you Making This Mistake in Business?

Recently, I was having an important conversation with someone and even though I had prepared for it in advance and was certain of the exact words I wanted to convey, the conversation quickly went off track. In the moment – I got nervous, my mind blanked, and I blurted out the thing I thought would make him happy instead of the thing that I wanted and planned to say.

In my mind, I replayed the conversation for the entire 30-minute car ride home, upset at my people-pleasing behavior and that I hadn’t had the confidence to say what I wanted to say.

Finally, I said “enough.” I made a mistake. I will learn from the mistake, and I will try not to do it again. If you are a woman in business like me, you may have also been raised to be a “people-pleaser,” a nurturer whose focus is too often on the other person being happy. I’ve been working on changing that behavior for some time, so while erring on the “too nice” side still pops up occasionally, it is now the exception rather than the rule.

I found that becoming aware was the first step in changing my behavior so I could be my stronger, more authentic, self. When I am being authentic, I don’t want to please all people, but sometimes my discomfort with confrontation is so strong, I defer.

Last week, while teaching a class on this content, some women groaned as they recognized their own language choices in the descriptions of low-power vs high-power language and affect below:

Have you ever given away your credit?

  • Instead of owning your success with, “thank you, I worked hard on that.” You say: “It was no big deal,” “I got lucky,” “I couldn’t have done it without Joe and Mary?”

Are you using low-power language in your emails?

  • Self-effacing language – “Sorry,” “I guess what I’m saying,” “What this basically means…”
  • Undermining language – “Just,” “I’m no expert,” “I feel,” “I think,” “I believe,” vs. “I’m confident, I’m convinced, I expect”
  • Add unnecessary tag lines to the ends of sentence – “don’t you think?” “Does that make sense?” “Just a suggestion, ok?”
  • Use collective language (as though embarrassed to say I or my) -“We,” “Ours”

Check out this helpful Google app called, “Just Not Sorry”. It’s a Gmail Plug-in that highlights content in your emails, thus warning you when you write emails using words which undermine your message.

Developing a more confident image through your choice of language and non-verbals is worth the work – even if you are “faking it until you make it.”

Confidence is even more important than competence for some, according to this article, “The Confidence Gap” in the Atlantic Monthly:

“When people are confident, when they think they are good at something, regardless of how good they actually are, they display a lot of confident nonverbal and verbal behavior,” Anderson said. He mentioned expansive body language, a lower vocal tone, and a tendency to speak early and often in a calm, relaxed manner. “They do a lot of things that make them look very confident in the eyes of others,” he added. “Whether they are good or not is kind of irrelevant.” Kind of irrelevant. Infuriatingly, a lack of competence doesn’t necessarily have negative consequences. Among Anderson’s students, those who displayed more confidence than competence were admired by the rest of the group and awarded a high social status. “The most confident people were just considered the most beloved in the group,” he said. “Their overconfidence did not come across as narcissistic.”

And, the end of my story ? That day, though I felt awkward, I took a deep breath and contacted the person to schedule another conversation – this time it went as I had intended.

If you would like to begin using more high-power language, start by becoming aware of where you are communicating in ways that don’t represent the bold you that you want to convey. Grab a friend and do some role-playing. Nothing will help you own new practices and behaviors faster than taking action and doing.

Make the call to choose language more assertive.

I’ve created a helpful document with tips and role-playing exercises to help you practice fearless communication. Click here if you would like to receive a copy!

Interested in learning more about how you are communicating non-verbally? Check out this interesting article.