This episode is dedicated to empowering women and helping them up level to play a bigger game. You’ll learn about the specific speech patterns women use that hold them back and discover tips to be more empowered in the workplace. So, get out of your head, into your heart and let’s talk about playing a bigger game.
Hey, it’s Julie and welcome to the Corporate Yogi podcast. Today we are going to talk about how you can play a bigger game at work. And today’s episode is inspired by Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big. I have actually heard a lot about this book from clients and other coaches, and how empowering it was, so I dove in and read it for myself last year. It really was amazing, and I was impressed, and wanted to share some of the highlights that I took away from the book. So Tara focuses specifically on empowering and working with women, so the book naturally is targeted to women. However, I have to be honest, many of these tips can be leveraged by anyone who is looking to increase their impact and really step up at work. And this episode is a follow up to a recent episode called, Is your voice being heard? I received so much positive feedback from that episode. In it I explained the very common example of a woman who feels like whenever she speaks up in a meeting and shares an idea, she gets crickets, no one responds or acknowledges what she said even if it was a brilliant idea worthy of praise. And to make matters worse, in many cases a man steps in to share the exact same idea or thought , only 5 minutes later, and everyone responds to him in a very positive way. So frustrating. This is a scenario I think most women have experienced at some point in their career. In that episode I shared a tip that the women of the Obama administration started to use, that worked quite well for them, called Amplification, and it allowed the women to proactively really support each other and their respective ideas. If you want to learn more about that tool, you can head back and check out that episode. Today, I want to share a number of common mistakes, they’re mostly speech patterns or communication habits that Tara points out in her book, Playing Big, that women are guilty of making in the workplace. I loved reading through these and can absolutely vouch for many of them that I have seen women do in the workplace, and also many of them that I’ve been guilty of in the past.
So here’s a look at what you’re going to learn today:
1) First, I’m going to explain where these speech patterns come from
2) In the 2nd segment I’ll share these 10 speech patterns
3) In the 3rd segment I’ll give you a tip for how to start changing your behaviour
So get out of your head and into your heart and let’s talk about trust.
So I am going to share a list of 10 different speech patterns we use as women that really undermine our intelligence and our power in the workplace. And before I share those with you, I think it’s really important to point out that this is really about raising awareness, not blaming. As women, we do many of these things because we have been socialized differently than men have been. Even from a very young age we are treated differently, there are different expectations placed on women. We are given different toys, different opportunities and there are different levels of behaviour expected of each. I don’t know about you, but it just sends me when I have someone say, we’ll boys will be boys. What does that mean? Or when the first and only compliment people give to a girl is, Wow you are so pretty, aren’t you. Any sort of limiting comment, expectation or compliment like this, that is gender-based or stereotypical just sends me. And I wish we could start to use more neutral and inclusive language, that wouldn’t just pigeon-hole someone into a male or female stereotype, that would also apply and be encouraging to someone who identifies as non-binary and didn’t feel as though they had to fit or not fit into a 2 category system. So we clearly have a lot of work to do, and I really just wanted to point out, that if you do find yourself using these different language habits as a woman, don’t beat yourself up, it’s completely not your fault, it’s part of our socialization and it sits in our collective consciousness.
OK so let’s dive into these speech patterns to see how many of them are familiar to you. There are actually 10 of them, and I will recap them at the end, so if you are like me, and infinitely curious, you can treat it like a little quiz and give yourself a score, and see how many of these 10 you are guilt of during the recap
ok #1 – Using hedges in our language, (for example using the word just) and this could be when we’re making a request or sharing a thought. For example, Can I just ask a quick question. I just had one more thought I wanted to share. Using the word Just really isn’t necessary, it’s a filler word that isn’t adding any value, and in fact it is actually doing harm, because we end up minimizing our request, our ask or the opinion we are about to share. What’s really going on here is that we are holding a limiting belief of not wanting to ever impose on someone else, not wanting to taking up too much time or space.
#2 – The 2nd undermining speech pattern is usually the word Actually. Tara explains that it makes it sound like you are surprised you have a question. It is also a filler word that doesn’t add any value and can actually detract from what we are saying.
#3 – Other hedges we use are “Kind of” and “almost” – and we use these when we’re uncomfortable inserting our ideas. Linguists call these words hedges. Research shows that low status and low power people use more hedges than high power people, and women use more hedges than men do. And yes, I think I would definitely be guilty of using these types of hedges too.
#4 – Using the term “sorry, but”. Basically any type of over-explaining or over-apologizing is damaging to us. I have double guilt on this one, as a woman and as a Canadian, we are notorious for over apologizing and saying sorry too darn much.
#5 – Saying, “a little bit” women say “I’d like to take a few minutes of your time”…. As if what they’re about to say isn’t worth the time of their interruption. Yes, this one is common. And in truth I see this one being used by many people, not just women. I think I am guilty of this. It’s very similar to #1 – when we just the hedge of saying Just. This is also about not wanting to ask too much of others and wanting to fly under the radar.
#6 – Using disclaimers before we make a point or share an idea, for example
I’m just thinking off the top of my head, but
You all have been thinking about this longer than I have, but
I’m no expert, but
this is just an idea
We do this bc of conditioning to be ever humble, or we know our thinking is in progress. By diminishing our ideas we automatically put ourselves in a lower power position. We can use alternative ways that don’t diminish our thoughts, “let’s do some brainstorming on this, here are some of my thoughts”
#7 – Ending statements with “Does that make sense?”. This is an attempt to reach out to the audience to check in and find out if we were understood. The intention is good, but research shows that women who use this are seen as less influential and less knowledgeable about their topic. It’s no wonder, bc when we ask “does that make sense” it suggests that we think we may have been incoherent in how we spoke or how we shared an idea. Instead, ask them, “how did that land with you” “what are your thoughts” or “do you have questions”, express interest in your audience without diminishing yourself.
#8 – Uptalk – this is where you raise your pitch at the end of a sentence. When you ask a question, your pitch gets higher at the end of yes/no questions. When women use uptalk, their statements sound questioning and tentative. Research on uptalk shows that listeners think the uptalker is not sure if what they are saying is relevant or valuable to the discussion at hand. A sing-song tone is similar and can also make the speaker come across as less authoritative. Here’s a couple examples of Uptalk.
I really think this is an idea that could work?
It sounds like we’re trying to convince ourselves and the other person.
#9 – Rushing and piling on the words
This is where we make a perfectly good point, but instead of letting the point stand on it’s own and carry it’s own weight as the good idea that it is. We keep talking and adding phrases and statements on top of it. It’s like we start to ramble on and on. It sounds frenetic and makes us sound insecure. In contrast, imagine listening to this. “We’re working hard on this. We want this biz up and running by date. We’re optimistic with the right financing we can get there.”
Some research says that women rush bc they tend to be interrupted more often than men, and they develop the coping strategy of rushing so that they are less likely to be interrupted during pauses. Yet pauses between sentences connote confidence. So don’t be scared to punctuate and pause!
And lastly #10 – Substituting a question for a statement. When we fear coming on too strong, using a question rather than a statement seems like a good idea. If it feels too risky to say, “I really think we need to increase the mktg budget”, so we say, “What if we increase the mktg budget”
Women who use questions, instead of statements may be perceived as not having a clear point of view…. Bc their ideas are always hidden as questions.
Women often turn to questions, rather than statements, bc we are often avoiding conflict, visibility and claiming power.
OK so let’s recap that list of 10 and if you want to keep track of which ones you do, I’ll run through the list for you now:
ok #1 – Using hedges in our language, especially the word just)
#2 – using the word Actually.
#3 – Other hedges such as “Kind of” and “almost”
#4 – Using the term “sorry, but”.
#5 – Saying, “a little bit” to minimize your request
#6 – Using disclaimers before we make a point or share an idea, I’m just thinking off the top of my head, or I’m no expert,
#7 – Ending statements with “Does that make sense?”.
#8 – Uptalk – this is where you raise your pitch at the end of a sentence.
#9 – Rushing and piling on the words
And lastly #10 – Substituting a question for a statement.
OK so how did you do with the list? How many of the 10 do you see yourself doing either currently or at some point in the past?
Please don’t be hard on yourself, as I said earlier, the point of this isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself, it’s simply to make yourself conscious of these habits so you can start to shift them. If you feel inspired to make changes in how you communicate here’s what I would suggest. Pick out one of these habits and really focus on changing that one single habit at a time, then when you feel like that habit has been mastered, then you can move on to focus on something else. You can also share this growth intention with a colleague or a boss for accountability, bc we don’t always see ourselves as we truly are, so they can be a great sounding board to really see things we don’t see.
OK it’s time to wrap up this episode on playing a bigger game. I’m curious, what are you taking away from this episode? What did you learn about yourself, or about others? I would love to know and love to hear from you if any of these undermining speech patterns are ones you are guilty of – either now or at some point in the past.
I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday for another great episode and remember, that any fear or resistance you hold deep inside of you, is simply your greatness in disguise.