I have two daughters. I want them to have equality in their impact on the world and in their careers. Culturally women have been taught to make people feel comfortable and at ease. We can have trouble standing out, speaking up, being ambitious and strong. We can undermine our thoughts and ideas with weak language.
Have you noticed how men and women speak differently? Strong language is more prevalent among men than women. Language signals confidence and authority or can sabotage influence and weaken our effectiveness. One of the most offending words is the word “just”. “I just want to tell you that the customers don’t like the color.” “The customers don’t like the color.” “I just want to tell you that I’m concerned.” “I’m concerned.” Women should strike the word “just” from our language. Language is influence. Strong language is power.
“I would love”, “I feel”, “I believe”, “I’m sorry, but”all can have similar softening effects of our opinions. “I would love to hire Casey.” “I want to hire Casey.” “I feel that this move would increase our product’s desirability.” “I expect this move would increase our product’s desirability.” “I believe that we should be inclusive.” “We should be inclusive.” “I’m sorry, but I disagree.” “I disagree.”
Replace soft words and ideas with, “I’m confident”, “I expect”, “I’m convinced”. “My research shows.” “My experience tells me.”
“Does that make sense?” should be “How does that sound?” “Maybe this is a terrible idea.” should be “My idea is.”
This does not mean we don’t use diplomacy. Thoughtful and kind language is important. Having good emotional intelligence is important. But, let’s end soft posturing and over-flexibility and be courageous about our verbal expressions. Let’s be fearless with what we believe and the way we express it.
Weak language is not taken seriously. Unapologetic, direct communication will get us and our daughters farther in having influence. It begins with us, ladies. Let’s model strong language and not worry how our ideas are taken. They are our ideas. Let’s own them proudly.
*my daughters (and daughter from another mother) and I, Lincoln City, Oregon*