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.
- In Need Proof That Women are Taught to "Be Polite," Even When They're In Danger? Prepare to be Horrified, I shared the powerful story of Eva Mozes Kor, holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate, on her first day at Auschwitz. Even after losing her entire family and watching Nazis confiscate all of her belongings, she still felt like she needed an "excuse" to be "rude" when Nazis held her down and tattooed a number on her arm. Lesson: women need to actively work on rejecting the notion of "being nice," and instead try to #BeRude.
- In The Orgasm Gap is Real, but Don't Blame it on the Patriarchy, I discussed that men are not mind readers -- if a woman wants a certain amount of foreplay or needs a certain kind of stimulation during sex, she needs to explicitly say so. If the guy isn't down... he's not worth hooking up with. I advised that women use phrases like, "I come first," "Let's do this quid pro quo -- if you want something from me, you have to do it to me, first," or, "FYI, I need at least thirty minutes of foreplay before sex, and I'm bringing a timer, so I hope you like foreplay." Or don't -- but don't complain or blame it on the patriarchy when you aren't sexually satisfied.
- In How to Make a Perfect, Graceful Exit (WHILE Increasing Your Power and Charisma), I wrote about how touching someone is also a subtle display of power. Therefore, the Touch Interrupt is not only an effective way to excuse yourself from the conversation. It's also a warmth thing, and a power thing. Making it a charisma thing. Read more >
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.
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:
- Try to match the pace of your audio books.
- Speak slowly enough that you can consciously process each word as you say it.
- Rereading the last sentence of this post out loud and think about each word as you say it.
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!