Too many women dilute their impact by using words, a tone or a style that can be misinterpreted or make them appear indecisive.
We learn many strategies to assist us fit in or be accepted. Unconsciously we adapt and conform to roles allocated to us by our families, friends, teachers, media, and a myriad of others.
We modify our language or tone to be perceived as ‘nice’ ‘likeable’ ‘conciliatory’ ‘fair’ ‘caring’ or any of the other qualities and behaviours bestowed upon us.
* We qualify our statements or downplay our contribution or worth with words like ‘just’ – ‘I’m just a ..”
* We ask others to do things in an indirect and ‘nice’ way: ‘I know you’re really busy, but I wonder if you’d have any time to write this brief today? It would be OK if you can’t..’
* We do things we don’t want to and say ‘yes’ when we really mean ‘no’ in order to avoid conflict or disappointing someone.
* We ask questions when we should be making statements: ‘I wonder if we should try doing…’
* We say ‘sorry’ for things that don’t need apology – or even worse when someone else should be apologising to us! Typically it’s the woman who apologises when someone almost bowls her over in their hurry.
* We apologise when we disagree with someone, ‘I’m sorry but I think …’ and for countless other things that aren’t our fault or responsibility.
Much of this is habitual and rarely useful, especially in organisational life. It’s helpful to remember:
* If we undervalue our contribution, others will too.
* If we’re indirect and wordy we’ll be viewed as less effective, less competent or lacking in authority.
* If we ask questions instead of making statements, we’ll be perceived as indecisive.
* If we agree to take on more work without negotiating more time or resources we’ll either fail to deliver a quality product or create unnecessary pressure and stress for ourselves.
* If we say ‘sorry’ too often, others will assume we’re always making mistakes.
We must all pay attention to how we speak to ensure we create the best possible impression within the context we’re in. Habits can be changed with mindfulness and practice. So maybe now it’s time to pay attention to your language and style.