Women, don't do this!
Are you unwittingly giving away your power/
Do you give away your power without even realising it?
Many of us do, particularly when working in a mainly male environment. The language we unwittingly use can weaken us in the eyes of male colleagues and bosses. So they see us as less powerful than we really are. Our way of talking is not like theirs (men’s) so is viewed as less important.
That doesn’t mean we should simply ape male behaviour. Definitely not.
It does mean we should consider how we speak in a very male environment in the same way that we would understand the norms of another business, or country. That makes sense. Once we understand the terms of engagement, we can make an informed choice about how to engage.
Here are some communication styles that can weaken your impact when speaking at work:
‘It’s my feeling that…‘
It’s easy to dismiss comments as just her feelings. And men don’t go for the feelings stuff either so double whammy. Try saying simply ‘I think that…,’ or ‘My perspective is....’
Being assertive is not being aggressive. You don’t have to resort to aggressive tactics to make your point, but you do want to make it in a way everyone will listen to.
‘I’m sorry, but…’
What are you apologising for? Have you done something wrong? I hear this phrase very often. It becomes habit after a while. Some of us just learn to preface everything with ‘I’m sorry…’ If this sounds like you, make a mental note every time you hear yourself doing it. I am all for apologising when we’ve done something wrong but not for simply opening one’s mouth to speak and possibly disagreeing.
‘I think that it might be better if…‘
Too many justifications here are weakening whatever you are going on to say. Be clear, bold and concise. State the headline issue and then your plan to remedy it. Don’t phrase it as a question unless it really is a question. As in, ‘Do you think it would be better if we…’. This line may work well in an all female group where the language norms are similar but in a business environment amongst males it can make you look weak.
‘I’ve got a problem with…‘
Have you truly got a problem? That sounds as if you are taking responsibility for everything too. Just state the problem, don’t make it your fault or others may begin to scapegoat you too. If you believe something is wrong try just saying it straight. You don’t need to make people feel better about something by first putting yourself down.
And you certainly don’t need to apologise for having an opinion.
P.S. Of course, when you’re the boss, your style of speaking sets the norm and I’ll come along and teach the men how to be heard!
Speak Up, my audio programme for career women will soon be available to download in the shop.