Any good writer will tell us that a single word can totally change the shade or tone of a sentence or passage. This is true of conversation as well. A single word can act on the subconscious of subordinates and peers alike and could change the level of confidence they have in your communication.
One of these words is “think” especially used in the phrase “I think.” But who doesn’t use the phrase “I think?” While it may sound as if you are taking possession of the idea with this short preface, but in reality when one says something like “I think I have a good idea” this will often lead the listener to believe that you are unsure of whether the idea is good or not, that you are still mulling it over.
In casual conversation, “I think I’ll have lunch with George,” it is essentially a throw away phrase. But you might want to drop this phrase from your professional lexicon.
Another trouble word is “need.” While it may seem to emphasis an obligation on the part of the subordinate or peer it can also come of as, well, needy. “I need this project finished by the due date” might make it sound as if you are dependent on the person or obligation.
Similar to “need” is “want” which can be taken as an emotional appeal rather than a statement of fact. “I want your reports to be of a higher quality” is not as definitive as “These reports need to be of a higher quality.” Or try “I want a raise because my work has been good” sounds emotional compared to “The quality of my work this year is worthy of a raise.”
Other words like “guess,” “hope,” and “suppose” all work in likewise fashions. Using “hope” can add an element of uncertainty or even doom. “Guess” and “suppose” both, again, could lend an element of uncertainty to an idea one is proposing.