Cure the Bunnyitis: 5 Ways to Speak With More Confidence

The following is an edited excerpt from Step into Your Moxie by Alexia Vernon.

As women, we often spend several hours curating what we are going to wear before a job interview, an important client meeting, or an appearance onstage. Our clothing provides context, and when not done right, disruption, to the ideas we speak and argue on behalf of. Yet I’m also making an impassioned plea that we put as much energy into choosing our words. To step into the fullest expression of your moxie, you need to address these linguistic “bunny habits” that can diminish your impact—even when you think you are communicating with a positive mindset.

Here are some of the most important bunny habits to conquer:

Making unnecessary “I think,” “I feel,” “I believe,” “I mean” statements

Whenever you open your mouth to speak, it’s inferred that what you are about to say is what you think, feel, believe, or mean. Yet women will often plug the word I, followed by one of these verbs, at the start of an idea they are sharing. When we do this, we send the message, “What I’m saying is untested. I might be wrong. And whether or not I am, don’t take what I’m saying too seriously. I’m swimming in self-doubt.”

Using too many adjectives and adverbs

Most women are adept at describing people, feelings, situations, and so forth with descriptive words. Real influence, though, comes from showing our own and others’ qualities in action. For example, rather than saying, “I’m a hard worker,” show how you identified a solution to a problem your team presented you with: “I reduced our expenses by 20 percent and increased our net revenue by 30 percent.” When we overuse adjectives and adverbs, it often signals that we are choosing ineffective verbs, which leads me to the third bad-bunny habit.

Overusing weak verbs

We make poor verb choices several ways. Often we use passive verbs. We consistently make statements like, “I am working hard in my career” instead of, “I secured twice as many contracts for my company than projected.” Or we say, “She is a great speaker” rather than, “Her words elicit trust and commitment.” Other times, we fail to select verbs that convey our unique point of view. Did she “walk into the room” or did she “saunter?” Are you “finding your voice” or are you “reclaiming, and shouting from the rooftop, your point of view?” Strong verb choices empower our communication.

Asking unnecessary approval-seeking questions

When you find yourself about to ask a question because you are seeking approval or validation, skip it. Examples of this include questions like, “Do you agree? What do you think? Want to give it a try?” Instead, share what you think, feel, believe, and mean (without saying think, feel, believe, and mean). “Our country needs more female CEOs.” Or “Butternut squash ravioli followed by a tiramisu and Italian coffee is the best. dinner. on. Earth.” And, thanks to your modeling, other people will likely tell you what they think and feel too.

Using “Sorry” when you are anything but

The chief way to go bunny is by saying “I’m sorry”—and usually, it’s when we have no reason to be. “I’m sorry, I actually asked for the dressing on the side.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that email.” “I’m sorry, I have something to say, dang it, gimme some face time!” We might say I’m sorry because we feel as if we have inconvenienced someone when we are asserting ourselves. Sometimes we say “I’m sorry” because it feels like the polite thing to do. Other times we do it because, knowingly or not, we are actually hoping for others to take responsibility for their mistakes. Certainly there are times when an “I’m sorry” is warranted. And during these times, we have an opportunity and responsibility to say how we have learned from our mistake and how we will self-correct moving forward. Cleaning up messes is sexy; so is stepping into one’s moxie.

Alexia Vernon is the author of Step into Your Moxie. Branded a “Moxie Maven” by President Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement, she is a sought-after speaking and leadership coach who delivers transformational keynotes and corporate trainings for Fortune 500 companies and other professional groups and organizations, including the United Nations and TEDx. Visit her online at

Excerpted from the book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World. Copyright ©2018 by Alexia Vernon. Printed with permission from New World Library —