I know this will make me sound like an old fogy, but the way some young women talk drives me crazy. What bugs me is all that "up-talk," where everything they utter—even simple declarative sentences—sounds like a string of questions from a sulky teenager. I used to think that they would grow out of it, but, increasingly, I'm bumping into midlevel associates who speak with that kind of inflection.
Thankfully, I haven't met any female partners who speak "up-talk." I don't know if that's because today's Valley girls have not yet arrived at the gates of partnership, or they're not making the cut. In any case, it behooves women to pay attention to how they speak and comport themselves. Too often, women sound much too girlish—and tentative—than they should.
So what can you do to make sure that you don't sabotage yourself with your verbal style? You might check out consultant Tara Sophia Mohr's list of the types of girl-speak to avoid. Here's what Mohr writes in Huffington Post:
1. Lose the "just." "I'm just wondering ..." "I just think ..." "I just want to add ..." Mohr says that "'just' demeans what you have to say" and "shrinks your power."
2. Drop "actually" too. "I actually have a question." " I actually want to add something." Mohr says "actually" makes it sound like you're surprised by your own ideas.
3. Don't say that you are probably wrong. "I haven't researched this much but ..." "I'm just thinking off the top of my head but ..."
4. Don't preface your statement by saying, "I'll take just a minute." Mohr says the phrase "sounds apologetic and implies that you don't think what you are about to say is worthy of time and attention."
5. Cut the questioning tone. This is, of course, my personal pet peeve. Mohr suggests lowering the tone at the end of a sentence. (If in doubt, think Maggie Thatcher.)
6. Don't ask a question when you are expressing an idea. "When you have something to say, don't couch it in a question," says Mohr. Example: "What about this approach?" or "What do you think of doing it that way?"
Mohr adds that there sometimes are "strategic reasons to use a question rather than a statement," such as when there might be resistance to an idea. But she warns that women should be mindful that they're phrasing ideas into questions because they fear conflict, visibility, or power.
That's a lot of "don'ts." So what can women affirmatively do? Mohr says it's effective to take your time when you're speaking:
When we don't feel we have the right to take up space in a meeting or conversation, or when we are nervous, we tend to rush, and never leave a moment without words. Brief pauses between your sentences connote confidence and a sense of comfort in the role of speaker. They allow the listener to absorb what you are saying and give you a moment to gather a deep breath and collect your thoughts.
I hate to admit it, but I'm guilty of many of the speech patterns she warns women about.
Anyway, I just wanted to take just a minute to pass along this bit of advice. I know it might be totally wrong and irrelevant, but I think Mohr makes some good points, right? Actually, what do you think?
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