As I recently wrote in YourTango, people LOVE policing women's language and monitoring their tone.
From telling us not to use rising terminations (you know, when your sentences all kind of go up at the end? Like a question?) to telling us not to use hedging language (words that soften what you're saying to make you seem "nicer" and more "likable," instead of "angry" and "bitchy" — for example, "Maybe it's just me, and this is just an idea, but do you think maybe we should try ____?"), the internet is full of advice on how women "should" speak.
Personally, I think it's more important to listen to what women are saying than how they're saying it. Though there are some specific behaviors I think the average women could improve upon. For example:
As I wrote in Women: This ONE Speaking Trick Will Instantly Increase Your Power,
According to Stanford Graduate School of Business professorRichard Cox, powerful people speak more slowly. This is true for a number of reasons. First, power is related to status and people with status know that they won't be interrupted when they pause, take a breath, or speak slowly.
Lower-status people, on the other hand, talk quickly; they feel like they have a limited amount of time to cram in what they have to say. Their figurative "talking stick" could be taken away at any moment!
Another reason powerful people speak more slowly is because powerful people have (or pretend to have) confidence. Talking quickly is a sign of nervousness, anxiety or uncertainty, unconsciously indicating a lack confidence. This is something that's especially apparent during public speaking, which gives pretty much everyone stage fright. Who here hasn't been to at least one presentation that was delivered so quickly you couldn't actually understand it?
This was certainly true for PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi in her early career. But today she speaks at a leisurely 150 words per minute, which is about the same pace as your average audio book narration.
Finally, because it's harder to understand someone who's talking quickly than someone who speaks more deliberately, your listeners will have to work harder to follow your ideas if you're a fast talker. This could signal that you don't think what you have to say is important or that you don't care how well your words are understood.
Easier said than done, you may be thinking. How do you remind yourself to speak more slowly?
First of all, let me remind you that context matters. Personally, I know that I speak a lot more quickly when sharing an idea that I suspect will be unpopular or controversial. Just last week, I was explaining some of the concepts I wrote about in "Intersectionality" is the OPPOSITE of Feminism, and as I was speaking, I noticed that not only was I speaking a mile a minute... but I was using rising terminations like whoa.
The point here is, when you're nervous or presenting an idea that makes your nervous, be especially mindful of your pace.
Additionally, practice some of the following exercises:
To truly become a master of speaking, I recommend ordering a copy of Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo. You might also want to check out The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships, by Randy J. Paterson. You can order them on Amazon, or get them for free with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited.
Do you have your own tips and tricks (or pet peeves) when it comes to speaking? Share them in the comments!
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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