There are serious issues of workplace discrimination that stem from very real instances of people discrediting, ignoring, and undervaluing women in the workplace. And while tackling these toxic workplace practices should be on everyone’s agenda, irrespective of gender identity; there are some things you can do to get out of your own way and make others take you more seriously in your effort to climb the ladder of achievements and success. Specifically focusing on certain speech habits that women tend to fall back on more than their male counterparts.
Ending Statements with Question Marks
When finishing a statement, your pitch should go down (which is what men tend to do). Women tend to increase their pitch at the end implying that what they’re saying is more a question than a statement. This may be because they're looking for validation that the listener understands. Which is a good thing, but when it becomes chronic and all your statements sound like questions, then it begins to undermine your own authority and makes it seem like you’re unsure of yourself.
Using the word "JUST"
Remove the word "just" from your vocabulary, it dilutes your message and makes you seem unsure of what you are trying to convey. Eg: 'Just checking in.' 'Just wanted to ask...' 'I just wanted to say...' Remove the "just", be more confident in yourself. "Just", "quite", "simply" are words known as "linguistic moderators" and they reduce the certainty and impact of what you are saying.
Rushing Your Points
Talking really fast, being flustered, apologising unnecessarily. Don't rush it. Speak up, say what you have to say and know that you are supposed to be heard. You have a right to take up space in a meeting and to make your point. So don’t forget to punctuate and pause to make sure your team is absorbing what you are saying.
Equating Professional Acquaintances to Close Personal Friends
If the immediate answer to the question, “Why are you at work?” is “To make friends” then you’re probably putting yourself at a disadvantage. You’re at work to further your professional career, not to be a people pleaser or to bond. The goal should be maintaining “professional acquaintances.” When people speak about you they should primarily be talking about your capability in your job role, not about your friendly nature. Making friends at work is a bonus, but remember your boss is not meant to be your friends and your company is not your family.
Holding Back and Being Afraid to Take Charge
Step out of your comfort zone, if you have creative ideas and outside the box solutions then speak up. Holding back your thoughts and knowledge not only negatively impacts you, but also your team. When an opportunity arises for a lead role, take it! Especially when you know you’ve got a grasp on the project and have ideas on how to execute the work that needs to be done. Do not automatically assume there may be someone better qualified. You’re there for a reason and taking that jump will only help you grow.
Don’t try to change all your undermining speech habits all at once, it can get overwhelming and that could lead to losing your confidence to speak up all together. Pick one (“Just?” “Actually?” “Does that make sense?”) and focus on it for the week. The goal is not to completely eliminate the word or phrase, that would be unrealistic. Instead, aim to notice when you hear yourself using it, and to course correct in the moment. Slow down and skim your emails before you hit send, notice where the undermining qualifier shows up, and edit it out! Practice, and you’ll slowly change the habit; empowering yourself in the process.