By Jaquelyn Lynn

Want to strengthen your image and influence? Powerful speech patterns can help. Donald H. Weiss, CEO of Self-Management Communications Inc., an executive education firm in Florissant, Missouri, and author of Why Didn't I Say That? (Amacom), offers these tips to increase your verbal power:

Avoid "ahs" and "uhs." "You can be very confident, but `ahs' and `uhs' make you sound unsure of yourself and what you're saying," Weiss says. Don't be afraid of silence; it's OK to say you need a moment to think about something.

Use active instead of passive verbs--"We need to do something about this" rather than "Something needs to be done about this."

Avoid speaking too rapidly or too loudly. These speech patterns can create an aura of distrust and make the person you are speaking with uncomfortable. Lowering the tone of your voice and slowing the pace of your speech encourages others to listen.

Avoid generalities. Vague statements that can't be substantiated can make everything you say suspect. If you don't have the data to back up a statement, make it clear that what you're saying is your opinion.

Watch your use of qualifiers. While they are sometimes necessary, constant use of such phrases as "I think," "in my opinion," and "it appears to me" makes you sound unsure of yourself.

Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer in Winter Park, Florida.