As business owners, executives and professionals we want to be perceived as both competent and confident… probably warm and friendly too.

Interestingly, judgments are formed around two characteristics—warmth and strength. People, whether consciously or unconsciously, are asking themselves Is this someone I like and see as trustworthy? Is he/she competent to deliver what I need?

Communication through writing is a great way to stir up interest in your product or services. Blogs, website copy and emails are tools for attracting prospective clients to YOU.

And yet readers skim your writing and interest in you and your product fades quickly with perceptions (that might be inaccurate) that you’re difficult to relate to, hesitant and unprepared. (And if you speak like you write, the judgments are the same!)  DOUBLE OUCH!

What’s happening?

In this article…

I’ll look at the ways you, your business products/services and overall business strengths are undermined by 5 communication habits which confuse and take away from the desired message of  warmth and competence. I will then make some suggestions for tweaking those habits which will get those muscles in your strengths noticed.

First the undermining communication habits that have got to go…

Habit 1— Using stilted language so that the reader feels like they are sitting in a ladder back chair with no seat cushion… nothing but straight back hardness is uncomfortable. Yuck.

Those ladder back chairs may look pretty, but after a minute or two you’re squirming and can’t wait to move to something softer, less formal.

Writing with big words when smaller ones would do puts the reader at a distance rather than closer to your message and ultimately to you. For example, using the word proceed rather than the simple go.

The best advice is to write as if you’re talking to a friend. You wouldn’t say I inquired about the new movie and proceeded to get tickets. Instead I asked about the new movie and got tickets.

Habit 2— Using someone else’s words when your words are sufficient.

Hiding behind someone else isn’t needed and comes across passive. Clients want to relate to you.

When using someone else’s words It isn’t clear to the reader that you are present, much less confident. For example To some it seems the task of writing is fun and creative. Just say Writing is fun and creative. Own it.

Habit 3— Using words and phrases that are ambiguous like … just, kind of, almost, actually, usually, typically,and basically. These words are often used when you’re uncomfortable asserting your ideas… aren’t they?

Okay, sometimes these words are necessary, but a lot of times they are not.

Read your writing over and ask yourself if those words ARE necessary and do they add or take away from your confident message… an excellent question to ask regularly when proofing your writing.

You are proof-reading, right? Or, are you fortunate to have a Mitzi, a skillful editor who gifts you with her craft?  🙂

Habit 4— Using apologies is suspect. Good writing means you never have to say you’re sorry!

Are you apologizing because you’re taking up space? It’s one thing to be sincerely apologizing for some intrusion or mistake. Sharing your thoughts isn’t an intrusion.

The I’m sorry to take up your time… needs to be banished. Say I need 10-15 minutes of your time. Would tomorrow work? It’s direct and respectful of the other’s schedule too.

Beware of giving the message you’re unimportant.  It isn’t necessary and communicates insecurity.

Habit 5— Using qualifying phrases communicates a lack of confidence.

I’m no expert, I could be wrong, I’m just thinking out loud... These phrases could be about being humble but come across as your being uncomfortable with your capacity to share worthy ideas.

Instead of I know you’ve been thinking of this longer than I have… say Let’s brainstorm together… okay? You’re letting the other person know you’re willing to think on your feet… be spontaneous and imperfect. No disclaiming needed.

Let’s look at two versions of the same email I’m writing to you, the reader. How is warmth and competence communicated?

Here’s E-mail Version #1…

Hi Fabulous Reader:

I don’t know if you have had a chance to consider my request I sent a few weeks ago. 

I’m just checking in with you to ask what three challenges you think new leaders/directors/executives recently promoted or hired face?

I’ve actually been told that changing from a task-oriented approach rather than seeing the big picture and helping reports see their part in contributing, owning and getting engaged is challenging. Perhaps you might have some ideas to add? This is just a little bit of a sample.

Does this make sense? I know you’ve been thinking about this for a longer time than I.

Thanks again for considering my work and sorry it’s been so long since we’ve connected.



Here’s E-mail Version #2…

Hi Fabulous Reader.

I hope you’re doing well.  I love being able to connect with you and get your feedback. You have an original view I value.

A few weeks ago I asked for your thoughts on challenges new leaders face and I’m writing now to check in and see if you’re ready to share.

I’ve written a blog about the new leader’s challenge of changing from a task-oriented approach to a bigger picture view. Inspiring direct reports by connecting them to the company’s bigger vision is a leader’s responsibility. This topic is getting positive interest.

Thanks again for considering my question. I look forward to hearing from you.


E-mail Version #1 was full of phrases that made me sound tentative and apologetic.

In Version #2 I cut out the diminishing phrases and replaced tentativeness with a direct request. Warmth was communicated in the opening and closing of the email. I owned the positive feedback for my work.

The takeaway is…

Business professionals communicate their strengths of warmth and competence through writing skills potential clients notice.  Choose to correct writing habits that diminish your strengths.

Keep writing (and speaking) with an awareness of the 5 habits. Reveal your strengths and give others a chance to notice how you, your services and products can help them.

Let’s get together and discuss your strengths and ways to tackle business challenges.

Contact me for a free “I’ve got this! Strategy Session