Why I Discourage My Students From Using the Phrase, “I Feel”

Here’s an email I just sent to my students.

My objection derives from what I perceive among students as an unnecessary lack of confidence. When someone begins an answer by saying, “I just feel that,” what I hear is, “I’m hedging because I’m afraid I’m wrong.”

(The same is true for expressions such as “I’m not sure but,” or “This may not be right, but.”)

To be sure, doubt is sometimes fully appropriate. And constant certitude can be conceited. Yet more often than not, in my view, such trepidation is unwarranted.

As I said in our first class, I believe that you each are smarter than you give yourself credit for. So when I hear hesitant, noncommittal language, it pains me.

When you speak or write, I’d encourage you to have the courage of your convictions.

Postscript (10/6/2018):

I just came across these wise words from career coach Zeta Yarwood:

“Confident people aren’t confident because they know everything. Their confidence comes from knowing that, even though they don’t know everything, they know enough.”

1 comment:

  1. This advice is especially apt for women in the workplace or academia. I've been at many meetings where a young woman, surrounded by men, begins by apologizing: "This may sound crazy, but maybe ..."; or "I may be way off-base here but what if ...". She's practically begging to be interrupted, contradicted, belittled, or dismissed. More than once, I've approached a woman afterward and reminded her that her perspectives are just as valid as the men's.