I have sticky note on my desk at work that states:

“A confident tone states everything as a matter of fact, without qualifiers.”

This came from a business course I took on effective communication for leaders. At the time, it was a completely new concept for me because I am a HUGE user of qualifiers.


  • I usually get to work on time.
  • As long as everything goes as planned, I should have the report to you in the morning.
  • I could be wrong, but I think the answer is ______________.
  • Oh, you want to read a sample chapter? Well, keep in mind I’m not a huge published author so I probably have a lot of work to do, but here, you go. Let me know what you think, seriously, be brutally honest.
  • I’m no expert, but it sounds like to me you might be using just a few too many adverbs.

See what I mean?

I was/am the QUEEN of qualifiers. Some of you are probably (there’s another one) thinking … “Um, so what? I do this all the time!” and still others are thinking, “Geez, what a pansy!”

I think the root of my “qualifier” use lies in the fact that I don’t want to be viewed as a liar. If I say, “I am punctual with my arrival time at work.” And then I am late one day because of traffic/weather/screaming kids at home, then AHHHH. I’ve lied! OH NO!

If I state something as fact, then later find out I’m wrong, then I feel like a complete failure. However, some weird part of me feels a little better if I’ve given a disclaimer about what I’m saying, kinda like I forewarned the person that I could be wrong so if they take my advice, then it’s at their own risk.

So back to the course. I thought about it for a while, and decided they were right. I sound like a fish out of water when I qualify everything I say. If I want people to respect me, to value my opinion, I need to be confident, to exude confidence in my speech.

The result?

I know feel like I come across as a know-it-all (kia) person who thinks she’s better than everyone else. And… I REALLY am bothered by those types of people. I know you know them. They are the people that say, “I’m right, you’re wrong, LIVE WITH IT!”

The only one who can really say that, who I love with all my heart, is God. Because… he IS right… we ARE wrong… and we just gotta live with it.

So now I’m reassessing. How can I be confident without coming across as a know-it-all, full of her self person?
I think part of the answer lies in what you are talking about and where you are. When I’m speaking as a “manager” at work, I need to use a more confident tone, yet be able to admit my failures and short-comings when needed (unfortunately, I have many!) When I’m speaking with peers, it can be mixed. A few qualifiers aren’t going to hurt anything, but going overboard will cause me to lose their respect.

In my writing world, well, this is where I struggle the most. Because I recognize that I’m a “beginner.” Well, I hope I’m a little above the beginner level, but I am still learning. That said, aren’t we ALL still learning? Even published authors?

Blog Question of the Day

How do you balance sounding “confident” but not coming across like a stuck-up know-it-all? Or… are you a stuck-up know-it-all and really don’t care how you come across? *grin* Or… are you a wishy-washy qualifier and really don’t care that you sound like a pansy? *double-grin*



  1. I do believe we should be humble. In business however I believe we should come across with a graceful confidence. It's OK to be fun loving and sassy or even hair brained with your friends but with someone who might want to take you on as a client I think a little more sobriety is necessary. (until you really get to know them or make a million dollars which ever comes first 😉

  2. Oh, I think I'm a big qualifier when it comes to blogging and emails and other social sites. But I guess most of the time we tend to write those things the way we talk.

    With our writing, we have to be succinct. And perhaps in the business place. But in real life conversations, I think we should just be who we are!

  3. Recognize that we're all muddling in the middle. That's my first step.

    If someone asks you what you would do in a given situation, you say, "I would…"

    And do think about how you phrase things. "Have you considered moving your setting to Milwaukee?" "Do you think your protagonist could be a little more proactive?"

    That's what I would do. 😀

  4. oh my. this is how i feel on my character therapy blog. it's a service, right? but i don't want to come across as demanding or preachy. so i use a lot of qualifiers either in my prose by itself (i.e., sometimes this is the case) or by using parentheticals a lot (i.e., case in point). so…that's how i've solved the problem for me. the qualifiers aren't to discount what i've said necessarily, but to come across in a way that's not brash or bossy or KIA. good post.

    The Character Therapist

  5. Krista, first of all, I have worked with you, so I know. Yeah, you rock. You ARE the payroll queen. Who else could have gotten the position you have at such a young age? So you should totally be a KIA about all things payroll and just let everybody else get over it. LOL!

    I have a weird thing to deal with when it comes to this. I am way NOT a KIA, but apparently my body language/facial expression/choice of words convey that I think I am sometimes. (Maybe a lot of the time.) I think it has to do with how I was raised and my less-than-stellar formative years, but that's just how it is. So many people seem to have the opinion that I think I'm the queen of the world, when in reality I'm have the polar opposite opinion of myself. :-/

  6. Hi Krista –

    Ouch! You got me. I use too many qualifiers for the reason you mentioned. I don't want to say always because I'm not perfect. If I present myself as overly confident, then the pressure will be on to perform.

    Susan 🙂

  7. Great topic, Krista. I'm a qualifier…and I admit it. 🙂

    Makes me wonder what your results might be if more men responded, however. Men tend to be more succinct and to-the-point. I've had to learn to email and speak more 'like a man' with my male coworkers, so their eyes don't glaze over with all my "almost" and "sometimes" and "really".

  8. You all make such good points! I think really it comes down to 1.) your personality and 2.) the situation.

    Gwen also brought up a good point. I think if we had more male opinions we'd have some interesting dynamics on the answers.

    And because our "business" world has a large male populous, it's important to remember that in our communications. Sometimes people want short, sweet, and to the point, big picture.

    Giving all the "buts" or "maybes" or "unless" or "usuallys" will serve to annoy many and make our communications less concise and, really, less professional.

    In can also prove to make us look "less" in the eyes of some, especially if we are talking to clients or bosses. Those people are "results" oriented and don't always want our "humble" opinion.

  9. Oh Krista! I totally forgot! I've got some Pansy Pants toooooo! lol Seriously though, I am such a pansy. I qualify everything, maybe because I don't think I could ever really be good enough. I always see the mistakes, always feel like I could have done it better, you know? Surely there is a balance to be had…a humble confidence. I don't know how you go about getting it though!
    Interesting post!

  10. I've never thought about the whole qualifier thing….hmmm…not sure what I am. I'll start paying more attention.

  11. I have a friend proofread all my cover letters for this reason. I don't want to sell myself short, but neither do I want these people (prospective employers, etc.) to think that I'm not aware of my own flaws! So, I have a friend help me toot my own horn.

  12. I am a pansy, pure and simple. 🙂

  13. I relate to this. I was just thinking of this the other day. How do we celebrate our successes without sounding like braggy jerks?? I think part of it is being genuine and sharing our downs too.

    And you couldn't come across as braggy. Trust me!

  14. How do I write this without sounding like a know it all? 😉 I think most of us do a little of both. However, I know a few people who are screaming "I'm a KIA" every second of every day. I personally don't want to come off as a KIA and often have a hard time finding my confidence.

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