Your speech habits affect both your image and your self-confidence

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Did you know - some grammatically correct words convey a message that can undermine your self-confidence and your image as a professional.

We all have words that we use routinely in speech. Unfortunately, a few of those words make us sound silly, while a few others make us sound weak and insecure. Other words make us sound rude and crude, but I’m going to assume that you don’t use those. At least not in business.

One way to look silly is to use words meant to impress.

This is especially true if you use the words incorrectly.

I think of an old acquaintance who always used the word “promulgate.” This is not a word that had ever been part of my vocabulary, so I didn't know its definition. Since I always knew what he meant by the context of the sentence, it was years before I actually looked up the definition. That’s when I learned that he’d been using it incorrectly all that time.

Then there's the "almost local" agent who has sent two prospecting letters this year: She said she has received a plethora of requests from people who want to buy in this area. But later in the letter, she wrecks her "superiority in language" by saying "Please reach out to myself..." Ouch!

One of the rules of copywriting is to use the smallest, most commonly used word that can convey your meaning. That’s a good rule to apply to speaking, at least until you get well acquainted with someone.

Why is this a rule? Because not all of your prospects will understand you if you use “impressive” speech habits. On the other hand, everyone from those with no education to those with a PhD will understand when you write to the (recommended) 7th grade reading comprehension level.

An all-too-common speech habit that makes people look silly is overuse of the word “like.”overuse of "like" makes people look silly

Yes, it does have proper uses, but is sadly often used as a filler or as a substitute for verbs, adverbs, and adjectives that might give meaning to a sentence.

Think “I was like …” In place of “I thought” or “I said.”

And then there’s: “We were like at the movies when we like ran into like my friend’s brother.” Ugh.

In some cases, it can cause confusion. If a listener expects proper word usage and hears something such as “It was like a fireplace,” their first impulse would be to wonder what it really was and what made it similar to a fireplace.

Yes, for me this speech habit is a pet peeve…

I’ll admit that hearing “like” used where it doesn’t belong sets my teeth on edge. For a while I became so fanatic about not using it that I would re-write a sentence rather than use it even in its proper place.

I tried to find out how this trend got started, but all I came up with was “Junior High School in the late 90’s.” Kids took it home and before long it infected the whole country. One writer calls it “The Like Epidemic,” and offers suggestions for a cure if “like” has become one of your speech habits.

Something I’ve always wondered is why bad habits catch on so much faster than good habits. Do you know the answer?

Some words can make you look unsure and insecure.

Using them repeatedly can also make you feel unsure and insecure. Those words are “think, guess, need, want, and hope.”

Since self-confidence is important to your real estate career, it’s time to eradicate them. Let’s take them one at a time.


We all say “I think.” We say it even when the reality is that we know. For instance: “I think Avoid words that make you sound timidthis pie is excellent.”

It’s the wrong thing to say in a business setting when the reality is that you do know. For instance, when you’re telling a listing client that they should price their home between X and Y. “I think” this is the correct price means “I’m not sure, but maybe it is. At least I hope so.”

Switch that out. Say “Based on comparable recent sales and the state of the market here in ____ the correct price of this home is between x and y.” The same would be true if you were encouraging a seller to have a house staged or to be absent during showings. “Based on (your experience, statistics, etc.) staged homes sell X times faster or for X dollars more.” How about: “It’s been my experience that potential buyers leave quickly and before getting a true sense of a house when the sellers are present.”

Get rid of “think” in your self-talk as well.  When faced with a challenge, instead of telling yourself “I think I can,” just go for the gold and say “I can.”


Do you want to say you guess that a number is the right price? Will you say you guess it would be a good idea to stage the house?

Guess says guess. It says you don’t know.


Consider the difference between “I need you to fill out this form before tomorrow” and “Please fill this out this evening and I’ll be by to pick it up tomorrow.” If talking with an assistant, consider the difference between “I need you to refill the flyer boxes at 234 Sunset” and “Please fill the flyer boxes at 234 Sunset before you go home today.”

Skip the need. It makes you sound needy. Just make the request with a tone that says you expect the other person to comply.


This one is similar to need. It sounds like “I want this, but I’m not sure you’ll do it / I can have it. I just hope so.” You’re an independent contractor, so this doesn’t apply, but consider asking your boss for a raise. “I want a raise” sounds like begging. “I am due for a raise because…” shows that you know your value.

In self-talk: “I want this listing” sounds like you aren’t so sure you’ll get it. Instead tell yourself that you’re going in well prepared and will get the listing because you’re the right person for the job.

I know. There are some very forceful people who might loudly declare “I want this done and I want it done now.” They’ll get results because their employees know their jobs depend upon obedience. But that’s not the person you need to be with clients!

With clients you may need to offer a reason why. Say you’re asking buyers to write down their “must have, like to have, and don’t want” lists. Instead of telling them you need them to do so or want them to do so, tell them you expect them to do so because the lists will save them time in their house hunt.


How many times have you said “I hope so?” How about “I hope this works?” It’s time to stop that. Switch out to “I expect…” or “I look forward to…” or “When this…”

There are things, of course, that have little to do with you and that you can’t control. You could use the word hope in those situations without weakening your image. For instance, you could say “I hope your new venture turns out well.”

But in keeping with breaking the “wimpy words habit,” why not say “I wish you success.” How about “I’m looking forward to reports of your success.” That sounds much more positive and supportive.

Do you need more self-confidence? In addition to being careful of your speech habits…

expertise is the key to self confidenceStudy more. Know your market. Know the inventory. Know your forms. Learn more about negotiating and psychology. The more you learn, the more expertise you’ll possess, and the more confident you’ll become.

Next, be prepared. Gather as much pertinent information as you can before every appointment. Then show up on time, looking cool, calm, and well-groomed.

When you know what you’re doing. Let it show!

And when you need prospecting letters that demonstrate your knowledge…

Visit my prospecting letters page for a wide selection. I promise – my letters will not make you sound timid, nor will they make you sound pushy.


graphics courtesy of Stuart Miles @

Comments (51)

Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Marte:

Once again you have provided some excellent guidance about not using certain words, with helpful examples. Sometimes the mouth just takes over, as does habit, without fully engaging the brain.


Sep 20, 2020 06:00 PM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Excellent post! Our poor language truly has been watered down and has suffered much over time. The other "place holder" in many conversations is, "uh or um". Yikes.

Sep 20, 2020 09:30 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

The art of communication... when it is just words, the ones you pick, the way you assemble them is the song you sing. Good points highlighting  what makes for minor chords, missing notes and can hurt communication. And reflect poorly on what was "spoken". Non verbal communication is a another reflection on what is being said without the use of volumes of words too. You miss that extra way to round out and read what the speaker is saying unless a blog post talking head video is part of the message delivery Marte Cliff . Short cryptic text messages can leave so information out on the who, what, where and why too. Plus the cute ways of LOL this and emoji that just keep you wondering on the other end of the tin can and string.

Sep 21, 2020 04:00 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Marte Cliff - I am happy to see your blog post featured! There are many Associations and Brokerage Firms that offer classes and opportunities to learn new ways to do business and make more money. I don't recall seeing anything offered to improve the English Language. Communication in business must be proficient. Bad habits can be broken. Our image in business is critical to success. Speech, communication, body language, spelling, and all words matters. 

Sep 21, 2020 05:33 AM
faye schubert
Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

This  would be a valuable lesson for anyone in any business.

Sep 21, 2020 05:50 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Marte, This is such a great blog by you and one that more people should see.  Can I reblog it sometime.?


Sep 21, 2020 07:38 AM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is outstanding advice to share.

Take care, be safe and have an outstanding month.

Sep 21, 2020 08:30 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Marte Cliff - So many wonderful suggestions!  You can tell a lot by the way people speak and the way they write.  

Two of the words or phrases that really "set my teeth on edge" are, "I'll try".  As Yoda might say, "Do or do not, there is no try!". The other one is the overuse of "for sure!".  

Sep 21, 2020 08:54 AM
Shannon Jones
The Shannon Jones Team - Long Beach, CA
Long Beach CA Real Estate

Very interesting stuff and always good to keep in mind!

Sep 21, 2020 11:02 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Really great post! I was listening to someone speak on Youtube this morning and every sentence ended with her saying (somewhat high-pitched and up-turned), " So, yeah! That's where we're at." After a while, I found myself wishing she could change to something that sounded more confident.

Sep 21, 2020 01:33 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Anna Banana Kruchten Arizona's Top Banana! Sort of an extreme game of Simon Says - fun!

Thanks Chris Ivy 

Jeff Dowler, CRS - That is so true. It's easy to speak without thinking first.


Sep 21, 2020 03:10 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Paula McDonald, Ph.D. Yes, those little words are everywhere. When I first got into real estate I worked hard at eliminating them when I was on the phone. It wasn't easy! Meanwhile, it's interesting to read written transcripts of conversations and to note how many ers and uhms are there.

Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 We lose a lot in email - and texts are even worse. The telephone is bad enough. We can get tone of voice, but not body language. All the more reason to take our time when writing and make sure there's no stray word that conveys the wrong message.

Sep 21, 2020 03:15 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP Classes should be offered on communication as related to business image, just because it is so vital.

faye schubert - yes, and perhaps in dealing with your own offspring.

Will Hamm Of course. Be my guest - and thanks for the compliment.

Sep 21, 2020 03:24 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Roy Kelley Thank you - I wish you the same.

Sheri Sperry - MCNE® Yoda was pretty smart! Some of those words and phrases, when overused, really do annoy. One I dislike is "awesome!" Some people think everything is awesome - even when its simply OK.


Sep 21, 2020 03:28 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Shannon Jones Thank you.

Jill Sackler That one might have annoyed me enough to click away. Some people get stuck on a phrase like that and (I think) don't realize how they over-use it - or how annoying that is to the listener.

Another habit that I should have mentioned in this post is that of ending every sentence with a question mark. Usually it's women who do it - and it makes them sound completely insecure. But now and then I run across a man who does it. I had a client once who would say "Hi, I'm Sam Jones?" Every sentence he spoke was like that. "I'd like you go look at some property with me?" And on and on.
I doubt that any of them would do it in writing, but when they speak, there it is.

Sep 21, 2020 03:33 PM
AndreaBFerreira CRS - SRS - CLHMS
Keyes Co. - Davie, FL
Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County in FL

Hi dear


Before getting into Real Estate my work was on Corporate environment and one sales manager, during a meeting said to everyone  " Don't  guess, think, believe or assume anything,  you know or you don't know" if you don't know do your research and learn to answer. She was sharp and I never forgot that day.

Thank you for sharing ... be safe

Sep 23, 2020 06:52 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks AndreaBFerreira CRS - SRS - CLHMS Funny how one line in a talk heard years earlier can stick with you. That was a wise line to remember.

Sep 23, 2020 12:07 PM
Doug Dawes
Keller Williams Realty Evolution - Topsfield, MA - Georgetown, MA
Your Personal Realtor®

Good Morning Marte Cliff This is a valuable blog post. I have bookmarked it for further use. Thank you. I believe this post should be featured

Sep 25, 2020 07:20 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Marte,

One fellow agent had speech that was so undeveloped, they sounded like a recent immigrant. I hope, they eventually improved. On the other end of the spectrum, I have had clients, who speak multiple languages, including flawless English. I am still a work in progress.

Oct 16, 2020 07:42 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Doug Dawes Thanks - and sorry I didn't notice your comment weeks ago! AR is now a bit inconsistent in notifications, and I forget to check.

Dörte Engel I'll admit to being intimdated by people who speak multiple languages, and I will never pretend that my English is flawless. Hopefully, it is grammatically correct where it counts. We are all a work in progress.

Oct 16, 2020 10:23 AM