Why we are banning the phrase “Kind Of” in our office, and you should, too

As featured in 12th & Broad:

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had said, “I ‘kind of’ have a dream,” or Barack Obama had said “Yes, we ‘kind of’ can,” or the Terminator had said “I’ll ‘kind of’ be back?”

It “kind of” loses its impact, doesn’t it?

In a recent one-hour meeting with five women from my firm, the phrase “kind of” was said 15 times. We’re all experienced, college-educated, badass ladybosses. So why did we keep watering down our statements with these meaningless filler words? What does it say about how sure we are about our ideas, our work and our abilities? It definitely doesn’t instill confidence in our audience that we know what we’re talking about.

While confidence is an issue that almost everyone struggles with at some point in their careers, women seem to struggle with being seen as a strong, self-assured force more often than men.

A recent article in The Atlantic referred to this as “the confidence gap.” It’s not that women are less capable than men or that we have less ambition, but we tend to be naturally more cautious and less self-assured. Combine this with an environment that nurtures us to be “good little girls” in school and it’s a surefire way to end up with a less confident female.

And thus the pesky “kind of” is born. What is it doing for us and why do we keep saying it? If we speak up in a meeting with an idea, shouldn’t we present it in a way that others will listen and believe? Shouldn’t we be confident in what we’re saying?

The thing is, when we believe in what we’re saying, whether we’re right or not, others are more likely to believe in it too.

“Well, I ‘kind of’ had this idea, and I ‘kind of’ put together this great presentation. Also, I ‘kind of’ got this great result for my client.”

Did you or didn’t you? Of course you did! Stop discrediting yourself with the first sentence out of your mouth. If we question what we’re saying, why wouldn’t everyone else?

So I challenge you to remove those two little words from your vocabulary.

Instead, opt for phrases like “I recommend…” or “I have decided…” because that’s exactly what we’re doing and we want others to do the same. Try to catch yourself saying it and keep a tally. You might be “kind of” surprised how often that may be.

Katie Adkisson is Vice President of Account Services at Reed Public Relations. She was inspired to write this piece after listening to the Chamber’s “Bizaroo” panel about women business leaders.