Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: STOP SOUNDING WEAK!

Difficulty: 0

Hi, everyone. In this lesson we're going to look at ways our language shows that we're

not very confident people, and it shows that we're afraid to give our opinions in case

we upset someone or they get angry at us, or we offend them because we have a different

opinion. And without realizing it, many of us soften and change our language, and use

particular phrases so that we seem to agree with more people and we say everything politely.

In some situations, this is a good thing because this means using our words with tact; using

our words in a way that respects other people, but sometimes if we use this language all

the time, it's because that shows us as being weak people who can't give an opinion about

anything, and who are afraid to speak their minds. So we're going to look at examples

of the kind of language where we... We lack confidence. And we'll go through some examples,

starting with speaking with disclaimers. When you speak with disclaimers; before you get

to what you really want to say, you go around it slowly first because you're scared to upset

someone or disagree with them.

So we'll start here. Let's imagine the situation: You want to give your opinion about your friend's

shoes. She's decided to wear green shoes, and you just don't think they look good with

that outfit she's wearing - that pink dress; it doesn't look the best thing you've ever

seen but you want to show that, unlike your friend, you disagree that it's a good thing,

you could say: "This is just my opinion but I don't think those green shoes look the best

with that pink dress." And when I say it like that, it's a sensitive way to disagree. And

for an issue about shoes, it's not a big deal; it's not going to make you sound really weak.

So it depends on the situation that you're talking about.

The next situation, here: "You might disagree but..." Imagine there's an issue where you

think one thing and someone else you know thinks something else; you have opposite opinions.

An example could be: You think it's unhealthy for children to eat chocolate every day, and

you don't think they should. And, in fact, you've got a son and you don't want him to

eat chocolate every day, but the son's grandma might disagree and think it's good for children

to eat chocolate all the time. You could say: "You might disagree but I don't think kids

should eat chocolate all the time, every day; it's unhealthy for them."

Moving on: "I'm not a professional but..." And: "I'm no expert but..." We can use these

phrases when we're in a situation where it looks like... It seems like the other person

there has got more experience than us. Perhaps it's... They've got a proper job, and perhaps

we're just an intern. So we want to say something, but we're also thinking: "Oh, I could be wrong",

before I say that. So, here's an example: I'm wearing a microphone, here. Let's imagine

this wasn't on the right way, and I'm the intern and I realize that, I could say something

like: "I'm no... I'm no expert but shouldn't the microphone be the other way around?"

Or the same situation: "I'm not sure if this is always the case, though in my experience,

those microphones usually go that way around." And the reason we would say... In this situation

I gave then, the reason I would say that very carefully is because in that situation there

might be a reason that we don't have a lot of authority there. We might really know everything;

we might really know our stuff, but because we don't officially work there or we're not

an important person, we have to use our words in more careful ways. And also, we might be

afraid about being wrong, so we don't want to say the wrong thing.

Here's some other examples: "It might just be me but..." We can say this if we happen

to disagree with the other... With the other people around us. We could also say: "Perhaps

I misunderstood", and: "Forgive me if I'm wrong but..." All these examples we could

use in a situation similar to the microphone example where we... Where we... We think something

different, but we're not 100% certain. So, if I'm going back, using the microphone as

an example, I could say: "Perhaps I misunderstood but aren't microphones supposed to go this

way around?" Same example: "Forgive me if I'm wrong but aren't the microphones supposed

to go this way?" So there's some different phrases for communicating the same kind of

idea there. "I'm not 100% sure about this, but I'm going to say it very carefully."

Okay, now let's look at evading opinions. This... "Evading" means avoiding, missing

out, or giving opinions. We use this kind of language... Or people use this kind of

language in situations where they are cautious about sharing their opinion with that person.

Perhaps they don't want to get in an argument, perhaps it's about a political issue, and

they know: "If I start talking about that - well, things could get uncomfortable." So

there are ways that people close down those kind of talks; and they won't say anything.

And here are some signs of doing that.

So, these... These situations could be a hot political issue that people disagree about.

For example, this could be: "What do we do with refugees?" And someone doesn't want to

talk about it, so they say: "It must be hard. I don't know much about it. Sorry, I don't...

I don't know much about it. It must be hard to do... What to do with them; I don't know

much about it." And that has the result of finishing the conversation.

Or they could simply say... One person could say loads and loads of things about the refugees

and what they think should happen, and the other person at the end could just say: "It's

not really something I know about", and that finishes the discussion.

This example, here, would be more if someone was talking about a whole area or field of

expertise or study that you didn't know, so you didn't have a lot of confidence in that

area. Perhaps they were talking about something in... For me it would be if they're talking

about something in physics or mathematics; I don't know really much about that, and someone

could be telling me lots of things about it, and I could just say: "I haven't studied that,

so I don't know." Now, this... If that's true, that's fair... That's fair enough, in a way.

If you really don't know about it, what can you say on that subject? But sometimes people

will use: "I haven't studied that, so I don't know about lots of things." We don't have

to study everything in the world to have an opinion on; so just something to be aware


And this one: "I think it's a complex situation, so I don't know." Again, we could use this

for the political issues that we don't want to talk about, or issues to do with society

or culture, things like that. If it's a sensitive topic and you don't really want to talk to

that person or say what you really think, sometimes people will say this.

Now let's look at signs of self-doubt. This is a sign where you don't really... Let's

say if you've been talking about something, giving an opinion, you don't... You know that

you haven't really explained it 100% and you haven't really convinced yourself that you

explained it in a really good way, or you said something that was correct or accurate,

you could just say at the end: "Blah, blah, blah, here's my really long thing that I'm

saying. I really don't believe I've said it in the best way possible", then at the end

you say: "Does that make sense?" Now, people often use that at the end. And as well as...

In some... Sometimes it shows self-doubt, that they already know it didn't make sense;

and other times they say it after it's, like, long and complicated, and it doesn't make

sense - they say: "Does that make sense?" at the end because they just want you to say:

"Yes", even if it doesn't. Because it's a question at the end and it makes you agree,

it sometimes... And it's also a way of them ending their long point. "Does that make sense?"

so you just say: "Yeah." And if you want, you can carry on talking about it after that.

And a similar example is: You have been explaining something for a while, perhaps it was something

quite complicated, and at the end you say: "Have I managed to get my point across?" And

in most situations, the other person will say: "Yeah. Yes" because you're... When you

ask a question like this, you're pushing them to give you a positive answer and say yes.

Next, we've got more examples.

Now let's look at ways of making oneself small; making myself small. When I make myself small,

I... On one side, we could look at it as... Look at it like modesty. "I'm not going to

talk about myself like I'm a big important person, and I'm great to everything." That's

true sometimes, but other sides, it's when we don't use words that describe us as we

really are. So, instead of saying the good things about ourselves, we would use language

to always make us smaller and worse than other people, and not as good. Let's look at some


So, let's say you're talking about your job or it could be you're... You're talking about

books or how you like writing. Here's an example sentence that shows making yourself small:

"I'm not a published author but I do have a small blog." So, if we break down this sentence:

A published author is, like, a very important author who's, you know... You can listen to...

Listen to published authors give their opinions about things. These people are worth listening

to; whereas you have just a small blog. It's so small, nobody comes to it, it's not important

because it's so small. So, by the comparison here, that's the way you make yourself look

small. The comparison between the author that's been published by a publisher, somebody else;

and the comparison between you who just do it by yourself. We can break it down in more

ways of saying: If you do something by yourself, it's not as good as somebody giving you the

job. Or it could be about audience size.

Next we've got: "Although I don't have a degree in psychology, I did take a few modules in

it." Somebody might say this after a discussion has come up, talking about... Could be talking

about a disorder of a particular kind. It could be... Let's say there was a discussion

going on about: "Should children be taking medications to control their energy levels

in schools?" things like that. If you didn't feel confident about giving your opinion on

that, you could say: "Although I don't have a degree in psychology, I did take a few modules

in it." Now, if we break this down, what this sentence is telling us indirectly is that:

"Well, I don't have a degree, so I don't really know enough. I'm... I know a bit, but I don't...

Maybe I don't know as much as you because you've got a degree." And if you say you take

a few modules - a few modules makes it sound small as well. So, this is like saying you

know a little bit but not that much, and you lack the confidence to just share your opinion.

You could be very, very knowledgeable. In general, you could be very, very knowledgeable

about psychology and not have a degree. So if you go around saying things like this,

even if you have all that knowledge on psychology... About psychology, you make it small, because

you say: "Oh, I haven't got a degree, so..."

Next: You could say this example if you happen to be talking to someone, and it seem, like,

they... "Wow, they seem like they know their stuff." And perhaps they argue back. You give

an opinion; they argue back. The way some people deal with those kinds of people is

just to say: "Well, you know more than me". "You obviously know a lot more about this

than I do." And this you might say because they're so good at arguing. Sometimes we misinterpret

somebody who's really good at arguing and persuading us with their words for knowing

a lot; for knowing more than us. But some people are better at speaking the things that

they believe, and getting other people to agree with them. It doesn't mean the same

thing as they always are so intelligent and know everything.

Another thing that many learners of English do is make themselves small by always, always

having to get everybody there to know about their terrible English; how bad their English

is in any situation. So, you meet someone, and the first thing they ever say to you is:

"Sorry for my terrible English!" even if they don't have terrible English and they speak

quite good English a lot of the time. So, on one side we could say it's modesty - sometimes

people like to say... Well, they don't want to say: "Oh, I've got fantastic English. Isn't

my English so great?" So they can could be modest in a way. But in a lot of situations,

it will just make the other people... The English people around you or the native speakers

around you... A lot of the time it will more likely to make them think that your English

isn't very good, because you're not showing confidence at all.

And the last example here is the comparison, when... Let's say we've got a friend or somebody

we know; I bake cakes, my friend makes cakes also, and what I do is compare us, but I compare

us in a way that I show myself to be bad and my friend is good, I could say something like

this: "Oh, my cakes are nowhere near as... Are nowhere as good as yours." This is quite

a conversational kind of phrase when you say something is nowhere as good as something

else. And I think when people tend to say these things, when they tend to make these

negative comparisons, they're really searching... They really want the other person to just

give them a compliment and just say: "Oh, that's not true. Yours are better than mine."

So, really, when... When people say these kind of things, then in... In many but not

all circumstances it's not true when they give a negative comparison; they just want

you to give them something... You... They want you to give them some confidence.

Now let's look at hesitant hedges. That's a way of saying: How do we say things and

give those opinions in softer ways? How can we use language to reduce the force and the

impact of what we want to say?

Let's say, for the first one, a situation where you disturbed somebody and you didn't

want to take up a lot of their time, you could say: "Oh. Oh. I just wanted to say..." What

makes this a hedge is the word "just". "Just" is softer than saying: "Hey, I wanted to say",

blah, blah, blah. Like, you could surprise a person if you said that. But "just" has

the effect of making the request smaller and softer.

Perhaps you find it hard to give your opinion and to speak your mind so clearly, in which

case you would say: "It's sort of hard to say"... "Sort of", "sort of". What you really

mean is: "It's hard to say. I'm really struggling to say this", but you can't say it, so you

say: "It's sort of".

Another example is: "I'm kind of sick today". What you really mean is: "I'm sick today;

I don't feel well. I'm ill." But when you say: "kind of", it's not as strong. And maybe

we could look at this sentence as a form of an excuse, people would say. Perhaps this

sentence would be you felt like you had to go to work, even though you were sick; it

wasn't possible to call in sick. And now you're at work; you've had a problem or your performance...

You've had a problem with one of your colleagues - the day hasn't been going really well, you

could give this as an excuse and say: "I'm kind of... I'm kind of sick today."

We can also use: "suppose". When we use "suppose", we're not... "Suppose" means something, like:

"I guess. I'm not 100% sure". And when we use "suppose" with "might", because "might"

isn't 100% certain either, we get all this uncertainty in the sentence. "I suppose it

might be because..." When we bring in more and more words of uncertainty, that's a way

of softening what we're going to say. Perhaps, here, if we're giving an opinion that we know

the other person won't like or might find difficult to hear, that's why we might say

it this way, with "suppose" and "might". We'll say it so gently because we don't want to

upset or offend that person.

In this example, here, I'm using: "Maybe" in the same way; to soften. If I said to you:

"I need to think about it some more", perhaps I'm not sure I want to say no - you're...

You've got... You've invited me at the weekend to go on a trip with you, and it could either

be I don't want to say no right now, and it could also be honestly and genuinely I need

to think about it some more; I need more time. If I say: "Maybe", that shows more hesitancy,

more care taken in the time you need. You're not committing now when we say: "Maybe".

Another example is: "I wondered if I could have a word with you about that". We say:

"Can I have a word with you?" when we want to talk to someone. Usually we say: "Can I

have a word with you?" it means a private... A short, private talk. "Just come here for

a minute. Can I have a word with you? We're going to speak." If I say: "I wondered if

I could have a word with you about...", "I wonder" is I'm not... I'm not certain you're

going to say yes, and I'm saying it politely. I'm using... I'm using the past. I could use

the past tense or the present tense, here; I could say: "I wonder if I could have a word

with you about..." and I can also say: "Oh, hello. I wondered if I could have a word with

you about..." When I do this, I'm giving you the... More ability to refuse me, because

I am just... I'm not certain, because I'm only wondering now. I'm unsure if you'll say

yes. Of course, it means the exact same thing to say: "Can I have a word with you about...?"

Only difference being this one is softer and more gentle before you ask for what you want.

And the last example, here, is not an example with a specific situation; it's just to show

how when we use words, like: "possibly", we're not sure. When we say: "Oh, it's possibly

this." When we say: "possibly", we're using a hedge to say: "We don't know something";

we soften our language. And if we use: "I guess"... When we say: "I guess", "I guess

it's because", it's not because we know it's because; it's not because we have confidence

to say that; 100% certainty. Anyway, the way... The reason I'm using this example is to say

that often when a person uses hedges in their speech and they often soften their language,

the sentences will be full of hedges, combinations of hedges that don't really add to the meaning;

just have the impact of keeping that carefulness in the words.

So, thank you, everybody, for watching now. What I'd like to do now is you could possibly

go and do the quiz, I guess, if you wanted to do it; and I suppose if you've got the

time, you could do the quiz. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you again soon. Bye.

The Description of STOP SOUNDING WEAK!