Why Women Need to Stop Using Undermining Speech Patterns
We are excited to introduce you to our latest Guest Blogger, Jen Murtagh. An award winning coach to female leaders, Jen recently posted an amazing video to LinkedIn called, “How to Communicate with Power” – if you haven’t seen it you should definitely check it out here. Once we saw that video we knew we had to invite Jen to guest blog. Despite her busy schedule she graciously accepted and provided us with the following insightful post discussing how the frequent use of disqualifiers in verbal communication can sabotage us more than we think.
For years in my career, I could not seem to remove the word “just” or the phrases “sorry to bother you …”, “I actually…”, “this might be a bad idea but…” from my communication. I would find myself writing “just” all the time in emails before I would have to very intentionally go back and delete it before hitting send.
I didn’t realize how my self-doubt was showing up in my verbal communication until a seasoned executive pulled me aside one day in a meeting and said “Jen, every time you start a contribution with ‘this might be a bad idea’, you are planting the seed in everyone’s mind that you don’t believe in your idea. So stop it.” I remember being floored, but equally appreciative. That one conversation made me consciously more aware of all the undermining speech patterns I was habitually using in my verbal and written communication.
Why is this important? What I have learned is there are many reasons. A lot of women use disqualifiers out of habit or have heard other women doing it. Another reason is self-doubt. We all feel self-doubt, but it’s important to not let it creep into our language. And finally, and most importantly, it’s the strategic softening that women are prone to doing. Perhaps you were chastised in the past for being too aggressive or maybe you fear that if you are too strong, you will be disliked. For those reasons (criticisms), women then go to the opposite end of the spectrum and soften all their language. “I actually disagree” is even softer than plainly, “I disagree”.
I invite you to consider, how is your language impeding the impact you want to make? What would happen if you began removing all of these disqualifiers and instead of asking your team members “Am I making sense”, you simply trusted that you were.
About the Author
Jen Murtagh coaches female leaders to live and lead bravely so they can create meaningful impact and design a life they love – without burning out in the process. She is an award-winning C-Suite executive with 20 years’ experience leading organizations in both corporate and nonprofit. Known as a connector and vibrant community champion, Jen has been recognized as one of Business in Vancouver’s Forty Under 40 and was a recipient of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Women of Promise award. You can follow her on Instagram @jenmurtaghcoaching and at JenMurtagh.com.