A Real Estate Discussion Blog


Subconsciously Undermining Yourself With Your Words

This week I had a horrifying experience.  I videoed taped myself giving a presentation and then watched it!!!  While it was extremely painful to watch, it was extremely helpful as well.  It is an opportunity to take notice of things you don't often think about while speaking, the finer points of presenting. 

One of the big things I learned by the process is I can benefit by using more definitive language in an effort to become a more confident speaker.  I am told this is an issue that is more common among women than men. 

To illustrate what I mean, let's use a Listing Presentation as an example.  

"I think we should list your house at..."  vs.  "It is my recommendation that we list at..."

"I'll try to explain how I got to this price..." vs. "I will explain..."

"Hopefully after this presentation you'll use me" vs "After this preesntation, I think you'll agree that I am the best person to list"

Power robbing words to eliminate:

Ø I guess

Ø I hope

Ø Probably

Ø I think

Ø Maybe

Ø Kinda

Ø Sorta

Replacement words:

- I will

- I recommend

- I urge

- I would like to suggest

You can be the most qualified Agent in the world, but when these word slip into a presentation, they can detract from the power of a presentation. 





   Thanks for reading!  Subscribe here to be alerted of blog updates. rss sara bonert blog zillow  

Want to learn how to use Zillow better?  Check out:



I'm on Twitter too! Follow me at @sbonert


Comment balloon 62 commentsSara Bonert • November 02 2007 01:11AM


Teaching pre-license and CE has been an eye opener regarding my presentation skills.
Posted by David Spencer, Show Me real estate in Kansas City (Keller Williams Northland) over 12 years ago
Sara, Very interesting post.  My background includes coaching debate, speech, sales training, etc.  My observation over the years is that language skills, as your post identifies, may  be the single most important factor to our ultimate success.
Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) over 12 years ago
I know a lot of men who use the same words.  They definitely take away from the message, and the effectiveness of the content.  Awesome post.
Posted by Lance Zepeda (1-800-Got-Junk?) over 12 years ago

Sara, Words are so powerful. Thanks for sharing some of the power robbing ones we should avoid. Also, another great benefit of videotaping your presentation is to check your body language. We communicate even more with our body than we do with words. It is said that about 7% of our communication is done with words, 38% is tone, speed, pitch, etc., and a whopping 55% is through body language.

It's a great exercise. I did it many years ago in Corporate America. I need to dust off the camcorder and get busy. You have inspired me to record myself doing a listing presentation.


Posted by Marcia Kirtonx, Brooklyn, NY - EXIT Realty (EXIT All Seasons Realty) over 12 years ago

Sara - great post and awesome advice for people who need this.  I have heard many lately, like when someone asks "How's the market right now" and instead of saying"it's bad right now" maybe say "unbelievable!"

It's not just the words, it's a conditioning of the mind first.  :-)

Posted by Brad Andersohn, ActiveBrad - 707.646.1876 (Executive Director of Education at eXp Realty) over 12 years ago
Great post! If you words have confidence and aren't wishy washy it will reflect on you!  I don't want my doctor to hope I want him to WILL!
Posted by Todd and Danielle Millar, Sixteen years of excellence! (Glenn Simon Inc.) over 12 years ago
Oh darn I love "Kinda Sorta"
Posted by Maureen McCabe, Columbus Ohio Real Estate (HER Realtors) over 12 years ago
Nice post Sara.  In my opinion women should never say "I feel" either.  It makes them sound weak and emotional. 
Posted by Jessica Horton Jessica Horton Realty, Jessica Horton: I'm not #1... You Are! (Jessica Horton - Jessica Horton & Associates) over 12 years ago
Sara, the more confident we are at listings presentations, the more bold we can be. I don't care if they list with me or not. If it can't be priced right, I just don't want it. Because I have that attitude and tell the truth about the price they feel comfortable I am not tickling their ears.
Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) over 12 years ago
Sara-thanks for the post!  I might vs. I will videotape myself giving my presentation. I also believe confidence is in your wording as well! Thanks.
Posted by Laura Karambelas, Realtor - Downers Grove (Baird & Warner Downers Grove) over 12 years ago
Sara, I loved it, such great reminders to use the words we know instead of crutch words to make things easier.  Next week, I will note how many times you use the bad words in your presentation!! 
Posted by Ethan Dozeman, Real Estate in Grand Rapids (Realty Executives Platinum Group) over 12 years ago

What will be interested to watch is how refined Gen X and younger will present, given that so much of their communication and social networking now happens online. 

Jessica- Thanks for throwing "I Feel" on here.  Forgot that big one and I 100% agree with you!  Espicially when talking to a male audience.

Ethan- You should.  Count how many times I use 'so' as a transition word while you are at it!  Darn, now I am going to be thinking so hard about this, I might forget what I am talking about!  :)

Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) over 12 years ago

Sara - this is great - I find that I do it in my writing - I'll soften my opinions and advice with qualifiers... which are usually unnecessary, regardless of the context. For example, I'll write "In my opinion, the best way to handle this is to..." or "In my experience, most sellers will..." When I take out the qualifier, it's so much stronger and authoritative!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 12 years ago
Excellent points to remember. It makes such the difference. Even things we say or think to ourselves will create the same in reality.
Posted by Susan Milner, Cape Coral Real Estate Broker, FloridaFutureAgents (Florida Future Realty, Inc.) over 12 years ago

Excellent, excellent post! Our words are what make our careers and the ones we choose are critical. Nice job!

Posted by Al Maxwell, Real Estate Agent (Keller Williams) over 12 years ago
All very good points to exude confidence in a listing presentation.  Thanks for reminding me.  I can image how horrified I'd be if I taped myself (I know that I make too many facial espressions that give me away and I have a hard time remaining stone faced) you are brave!
Posted by Debbie Cook, Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) over 12 years ago

Sara, this is a great reminder for everyone to listen to their words. Even just audio taping yourself on the phone a at your presentation can help hone your skills. you are a smart lady!

joeann fossland

Posted by Joeann Fossland, Master Certified Coach to Motivated Agents (Advantage Solutions Group) over 12 years ago

Excellent post. I use those words all the time. It usually feels as though I am opening myself up for more liability when I use more confident speech, though.

Posted by Cathy Glass over 12 years ago


Excellent post! Not only do strong, confident words exude confidence to others but it also improves self-confidence! When we say to ourselves words like can't, maybe, try, etc. we tell our mind exactly that! When we say "I will" vs "Maybe I can" the mind takes on a whole new playing field and we become full of self empowerment.

Whether you think you will fail or think you will succeed......You are right!

Posted by Sandi Logan (Logan Real Estate Support ) over 12 years ago
I love the power words!  I heard recently at a seminar that our body language and the content of our words can go a long way into making people either think positively and move forward with us!
Posted by Anonymous over 12 years ago
Powerful post, I will recommend my associates to read this and urge my friends to follow through with this.  I will also suggest to my broker that we provide a link to this for all agents!!  Thanks.
Posted by Abe Do over 12 years ago

Interestingly, the same language used by a man comes across differently when used by a woman. Women are taught to be "nice" and "get along" which is why we use words that undermine our authority. On Good Morning America the other day, they had a segment about salary negotiations, women vs. men.  What they found is that given the exact same script, the women were seen as "demanding and pushy" while men were not viewed in a negative light. We need to speak from a position of strength...as you have demonstrated here wonderfully. If we do so religiously, eventually we will change the gender bias don't you think?

Posted by Kelly Sibilsky (Licensed Through Referral Connection, LTD.) over 12 years ago
Bravo for you taking the initiative to record yourself - and play it back too. Very good observation Sara, thank you for sharing.
Posted by Jason Mook over 12 years ago

I never thought to video myself, but I think it could be a great tool like you believe.  I give 30 second, and 1 minute speeches all the time while networking, and I sometimes wonder how I come across.  I think I'll try this!


Posted by Ronald Gillis, CNSA Southwest Florida. Notaries, Port Charlotte, 941-7-NOTARY (Southwest Florida Notaries (Mortgage Notary Signing Agent)) over 12 years ago
Thank you for sharing with all of us, Sara. Watching our own  performance is a good idea.
Posted by cecila jamaca (out of business) over 12 years ago

Hi Sara,

Great post!! It really makes you stop and think. Thanks for sharing!


Posted by Trace Galle (Designs by Trace) over 12 years ago
Basic sales stuff here. Good to be reminded of for all. We video taped our seminars, which was equally helpful for us as well. That's what's really good here, your recommendation to do that. Like changing conditional and passive phrasing to that of strength and confidence, all sorts of other spots to improve and embellish will appear on the screen as well. Key is desire to do it, and willingness to watch objectively. Good post, thanks.
Posted by Gary Bolen, CRS - Lake Tahoe Real Estate Information (McCall Realty) over 12 years ago
"Just" is another word that is used to weaken speech, as in "I just want to ask..."  It minimizes whatever comes after it. 
Posted by Lane Bailey, Realtor & Car Guy (Century 21 Results Realty) over 12 years ago
I had a similarly horrifying experience watching myself 'show' a house. I looked so uncertain and sometimes apologetic! No More! And why were my hands just hanging there, flopping around like fish. It was not a happy moment LOL
Posted by Sarah Nopp over 12 years ago
I was listening to a radio show last week and they tried to get listeners to go for one minute without saying Umm, like, or you know, and NO ONE could do it.
Posted by Ann Cordes, Home Ownership is Not a Distant Dream (Century 21 Randall Morris and Associates, Waco) over 12 years ago

Sarah -very interesting. When I was in management consulting, I was tought and used to teach my staff to write :"in our oppinion", "It appears". "most likely", "we recommend", "could", instead of "should" etc. For example we did not say "you should eliminate thisT department". We would say " you could eliminate this department". This kid of wording helps consultants to hedge the bets. If the client doesn't like your suggestion, there is room to back away. This is all strategies in the high stakes corporate world. 

In real estate, if you are upfront and not hedging, more power to you. Great job on the post. 

Posted by Faina Sechzer, Real Estate Expert - Princeton, Montgomery ,Hopewell, NJ (Henderson-Sotheby's International Realty) over 12 years ago

Hi Sara,

This is one of the best suggestions on doing presentations we've seen yet!  Congrats on your well deserved Gold Star for your Featured post.  Another great thing to do is to listen to your voice on an answering machine.  Yikes!  Some of us have to cringe when hearing our own voices.  Good job and we'd love to have the opportnity to see what you taped! :)  For learning purposes of course!  Perfectly illustrated use of words too!

Posted by Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618, Bergen County NJ Real Estate (Keller Williams Valley Realty) over 12 years ago

Hi Sara, Thanks for this post!  I suffer from using undermining words all the time!  I am far too apologetic...it annoys ME!  I can only imagine how someone else views me!  Something to work on for sure!


Posted by Deborah Corbari (Keller Williams Capital District, Team Shillinglaw) over 12 years ago
I guess I kinda, sorta think that maybe your post probably got read by alot of people. I hope so!
Posted by Janet Guilbault, San Francisco Bay Area Direct Mortgage Lender (Platinum Home Mortgage Company) over 12 years ago

Ha!  I promise none of what I taped will be appearing on YouTube anytime soon!

Thank you to all for the additional suggestions.  They are great!

Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) over 12 years ago
Interesting, I just noticed myself talking with some potential sellers today and I was watching my language, I stopped myself from putting something in a negative tone and turned it around. Wonder what else I might not have said well enough.if anything.
Posted by Michael Eisenberg, Bellingham Real Estate Guy (eXp Realty) over 12 years ago
Positive words are the best.
Posted by Dave Cheatham (INC Financial ) over 12 years ago

Our words and how we say them can make or break us.  This post was a great reminder on what not to say.

Posted by Nancy Pav, Nancy Pav, Your "GottaHave" Realtor (Century 21 Redwood Realty) over 12 years ago

Hi Sara,

 Thanks, that positive attitude helps every time.  We need to always be in control and professional.  I don't "think" I can, I "know" I can.  Great post.  :-)

Posted by Peggy McNabb over 12 years ago
Sara these are good points for us all.  Some simple changes could be all it takes.
Posted by Jim Olenbush (Cantera Real Estate) over 12 years ago


Posted by Ron Allen, Fayetteville NC homes (KW Fayetteville) over 12 years ago

HUGE!  I can't tell you how much I've improved my presentations by recording them.  I do most of my work on the phone, so I will record conversations.  The words you use are important!  So are the timbre (depth/quality)and cadence (timing.) 

Communication is an art form.  I enjoy looking at it like a game.  And since I like to win, I need to practice....a lot!  I talk to as many people as possible every day about what I do, how I do it, and find out if I can help them.  Fortunately for me, everyone I know wants to talk about money.  So I rarely run out of people to practice on.  My belief is that if I can effectively talk to as many people as possible who are involved in a real estate transaction, I will find endless opportunities for business.

I do this a lot better when I have some idea what I sound like.  So again, great post!  Thanks again.

All the best,


Posted by Rob Lusk (Habitatboom.com) over 12 years ago

Lately I've been very conscious as to the words and phrases I and others use (and over use).  It's amazing how, when put into a situation, where you are the presenter, that many people fall back into overused words and phrases (i.e. like, you know, umm, things like that, just, etc)  If you take some time this week and think about some of the conversations you are having (recording is a great idea and possibly have someone you speak to often watch for these patterns), I think you'll find yourself trying to streamline your speech and get rid of superfluous words.

Posted by Adam Dalton, Realtor - Turlock Homes (Century 21 M&M and Associates - Turlock Real Estate) over 12 years ago
I've got a teenage daughter, and I find "like" popping up all over the place (her speech, and mine!  Yikes!)  That can be so annoying!  Even the most important or informative message is brought down when the word "like" is inserted. I am an instructor, and my delivery is so important - I really try to watch for redundancy and those annying placeholder words.  Thanks for the great post!
Posted by Deb Carney over 12 years ago
Sara, thanks for this information. I'm guilty of doing this myself. I have read and heard that it's a good idea to record or videotape your presentations, but I never have done it because it seems like it'd be awkward to do. I'm going to try it this coming week, and see what I can notice and improve. 
Posted by Raine Carraway over 12 years ago

I think the most undernining word we use is "try." When you say "I will TRY to..." you are actually just giving yourself an out, leaving the door open to failure. Last time my husband said he was going to "TRY" to quit smoking, I told him not to bother, that he wouldn't be able to until he set his mind to "that's it, I am now a non-smoker!" He "tried," he failed, over and over again.

When you set your mind to do something, do it. Don't "try" to do it. keep that confidence up and the mind on the task at hand, and "git 'er done!"

Posted by Amber Bourland (Ozarks' Independent Realty) over 12 years ago
Sarah - enjoyed your observations and I always have to watch myself too - it's amazing how those works creep in there.
Posted by Cyndee Haydon, 727-710-8035 Clearwater, Beach Short Sales Luxury Condos &Homes (Charles Rutenberg Realty) over 12 years ago
Amen!  The subconscious is a powerful thing.  You are right on the money.  If people hear your confidence they will have confidence in you!
Posted by Jon Mitchell (Classic Property Management) over 12 years ago


Good post. I would keep the "I think" as a good word.

Mike Lewis

Posted by Mike and Dawn Lewis, The Lewis Team at Keller Williams in San Diego CA (The Lewis Team at Keller Williams) over 12 years ago
Good post. Words make a big difference.
Posted by Bob & Carolin Benjamin, East Phoenix Arizona Homes (Benjamin Realty LLC) over 12 years ago
Sara~ excellent advice, especially for women.  I think too many times our goal is to be liked or to not come across as arrogant or pushy. There have been many times when I've mentally cringed after saying something wishy washy.
Posted by Lisa Ryan, Selling Princeton,West Windsor and Montgomery Town (Callaway Henderson Sotheby's International Realty) over 12 years ago
Thats a great use of power words...
Posted by Scott Slocum, Scott Slocum & Associates 239-222-4800, Cape Coral (Florida Future Realty Inc.) over 12 years ago

In the way of positive self talk... here's another great phrase.  "I want or I hope for this...

Instead use, "It will be this..."  It's great especially when you are setting your own goals for what you want to make or accomplish in real estate.


Posted by Tammy Stone, "Eco-Green" Agent in West Michigan (Prudential Preferred Realtors) over 12 years ago

Sara you're right on the money. I like to pick my words very carefully. Instead of contract I say agreement, rather than saying it's impossible I like to say I'll be the first. Awesome post. Best of luck and keep doing what you do.

Posted by Vicente A. Martinez, Realtor, Brooklyn - Long Island - Queens Homes (Prudential Douglas Elliman Licensed Real Estate Salesperson) over 12 years ago

Sara = I am guilty of some of these words. Even though WE know what we had meant, the consumer will pick up on one or two words that could be a big negative to us.

Thanks for sharing some of these positive power words.

Posted by Chuck Dellorto, "Talk To Chuck" (Coldwell Banker - Serving INDIANA & ILLINOIS) over 12 years ago
Sara, Great post, thanks for sharing and touching on the basics.
Posted by Brian Hoots (Real Living Speckman Realty, Inc. ) over 12 years ago

That is definitely a great post.  For more on ways that women undermine their knowledge and authority in business, I recommend reading "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office".  An odd name, yes, but it was definitely an eye-opening read (also a quick read).

The books says that due to the way that women are socialized in our society, along with natural female characteristics, we tend act and speak in ways that don't reflect our abilities, knowledge and competence.  Although Realtors are clearly not looking for the "corner office" it applies to professional women or all sorts.


Posted by Brooke Allen (Keller Williams Realty of Jupiter, The Allen Group) over 12 years ago


How true, and what a great post. Don't forget what people also have a habit of adding into their dialog the "Uhs" and "and".

Tom Braatz

Posted by Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459, Waukesha County Realtor Real Estate agent. SOLD! (Coldwell Banker) over 12 years ago
Thanks for the reminder.
Posted by Steve Clay over 12 years ago

Sara, I came here because of Spencer's intro from Bob Stewart. I wanted to check out your blog. In my opinion you have nothing to worry about.

This is a very good post and the comment stream is also good. Maybe it could use a few more acknowledgments from you, but otherwise excellent.

I have subscribed to your blog. I'll be back.

Bill Roberts

BTW I hate the word "share" used when what is meant is "tell." I see this non-confrontational language as a "generational" thing.

Posted by Bill Roberts, "Baby Boomer" Retirement Planner (Brooks and Dunphy Real Estate) over 12 years ago
Very good post...I recommend that everybody read this!
Posted by Anonymous over 12 years ago
Bill-  Thanks!  I'll try to work more on jumping back into the discussions...  Such a good string going here already though! 
Posted by Sara Bonert, Real Estate Internet Marketing (Zillow) over 12 years ago