After Taylor Swift won her sexual assault trial in August, people were buzzing not only about how great the win was for women overall, but also how well Swift came across on the witness stand. When she described what the former radio host had done to her, she was confident, blunt (“he grabbed my naked ass”) and unapologetic. Bravo!

For many of us, that’s the way we’d prefer to come across in tough situations, and yet sometimes it just doesn’t happen.  We leave an important meeting or presentation wondering if we may have sounded too timid, or we watch stunned when an idea of ours that no one seemed to hear is mentioned by a guy ten minutes later and earns a big thumbs up this time.

When researching my upcoming career book, The Gutsy Girl Handbook (a totally updated version of my bestseller Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do), I had the chance to speak to Dr. Lillian Glass, a human behavior, body language, and communication expert, who says that women in business (and in life in general) sometimes undermine themselves by both the words they use and the way they use them. 

Here, says Dr. Glass, are some frequent communication mistakes we make, plus how to fix them.

  • Not enunciating enough or having enough energy in your voice. You need to say each word distinctly so you’ll be understood.  And if you think you lack energy, do jumping jacks before you go into a meeting or presentation.
  • “Up talk.” So common, particularly when we’re young. Don’t end statements as if they were questions (as in, “I’m in advertising?”)
  • Constantly using fillers such as “Um,” “Uh,” and “You know.”   Tape yourself when you’re talking on the phone and notice how much you use these. Glass says taking a breath between sentences can help prevent the use of fillers.
  •  Speaking in too high of a pitch. A squeaky voice suggests a lack of authority. Glass advises that you press down on your stomach when you speak and see how much lower this might make your voice.
  • Apologizing when you’ve done nothing wrong. You are not a bad girl for interrupting a meeting to make a brilliant point.
  • Introducing ideas with comments like, “I’m not sure but…” or “This may not be a good idea but..” or “I’m just spitballing.”
  • Not getting to the point. Start with the most important info and provide background info later if asked. Example:
    • Don’t Say: “When I was at the conference, I heard some people talking about what’s happening in California and then when I got back I did some research. I noticed this really interesting trend. Sales of X have grown nine percent in California. Maybe there’s something we should do with that.”
    • Instead Say: “Sales of X have grown 9 percent in California. That’s an opportunity we should consider jumping on.”

Using these strategies will make a big difference in the way you come across, and help make sure you’re heard and taken seriously.