Pursuit: You can’t ignore this

Listen up gals, we (well, many of us) have a bad habit….

… we often speak cautiously and with uncertainty. That is, young women often speak in questions, with inflections at the ends of their sentences. You know what I am talking about, for example: “We could examine if the theory of blah blah in the book of blah blah is viable?” or “What if we do plan A?” Instead of saying  “We should examine the theory of blah blah in the book of blah blah” and “I propose we should do plan A.”

Tina Fey in Bossypants writes a short briefer on impromptu acting. She explains that the actor must “make statements.”  Fey adds this important (and humorous) note:

MAKE STATEMENTS also applies to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with your actions and your voice.

Socio-Behavioral researchers have studied women in boardroom settings. Their findings conclude that women, in upper management, often speak in questions and make self-deprecating comments. These “speaking habits” can be obstacles in their career. (Academics have termed this: “The Double Voice Discourse.” Here is an academic study. And the topic in the news “Women told to speak their minds to get on in boardrooms”)

The Cost

Speaking in an apologetic manner in a professional and businessesque setting doesn’t get you points. If you know what you’re talking about, but do not speak as if you do, your credibility goes out the window.

 The Benefit

Other points of view suggest that such “conflict-avoidance-talk” may be beneficial. Wanting to maintain professional relationships, trying to keep conflict at bay, and avoiding hard feelings are argued as the benefits of “Double Voice Discourse.”

If you know you are prone to speaking in questions and disqualifying yourself you may want to ask/examine how often you do so. When you speak apologetically or in questions at all times, you’re likely inclusively avoiding conflict  (not just the opportune moments where you’re wisely selecting your battles). And let’s face it, conflict is often the basis of progression, innovation, and oh yeah, getting what you want.

 Catch yourself!

Essentially, you have to practice out of this “speaking behaviour.”  Catch yourself mid-sentence, For example: “It doesn’t matter, we can go any– actually, let’s go to blah blah.”


What do you think? 

Would speaking in a more confident manner help your/someone’s/anyones career?

Divya Pahwa writes about young-lady career advice on the weekly series Pursuit, here on the  McGill Caps Blog.

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