And sitting around the table with you are 5 or 6 of your male colleagues, plus the one other woman to reach this level in the company. Talk turns to a problem with the new hire, who seems distracted, and isn’t catching on to her duties as quickly as expected.
Your boss, a decent enough fellow, turns to the team and asks for input on the problem. What’s wrong? And what should be done about it? Are they already going to have to let this new woman go?
You’ve talked to this employee many times, and you’re pretty sure you know what’s wrong. You also have a solid idea for what she needs in order to do better.
Do you speak up?
You have something important to contribute, but as one of the few women in the room, you have a few extra hurdles to overcome. What you say and how you say it may determine whether you’re heard at all, much less whether your ideas are implemented.
Learning how to speak with authority so that others will hear and respect what you have to say is a critical skill to learn.
To do otherwise is to lose credibility, and opportunity, whether you’re speaking to the board, to your clients, or to your grumpy teenager. :)
So here are 7 Ways to Use Your Big Girl Voice so that others will notice you when you speak, listen to what you say, and respect what you bring to the table.
Say his name – and use his first name if he calls you by your first name. “Excuse me, Joe…” Make a small gesture with your open hand, palm facing away, down low (on the table if you’re sitting or at your hips if standing.) That issues a subtle message to “stop”.
2. Get to the Point.
I once read that adolescent girls send an average of 4,000 texts a month, while boys send 2,000. As Non-profit Consultant Kim Lauth says, “If you ask us what time it is, we’ll tell you how to build a watch.”
You’ll lose people that way. :)
Speak in headlines. Make your key point first, in a way that is precise, clear and direct. This can be uncomfortable – but it works.
Then, provide background information only if they ask for it.
Being verbose, imprecise or throwing in lots of “Uhmmmmm’s” invites others to interrupt. Women get interrupted much more than men, and when we do, we tend to drop out of the discussion.
Letting others talk over you gives away your authority.
That’s NOT what you want to do!
So when you get interrupted, take your power back immediately: “As I was saying…” or “Excuse me, John – I have the floor. Thanks.”
Then get back to your point.
BONUS TIP: On the other hand, there may be times when pausing for effect can add emphasis to your words.
We’ve all learned the power of a firm handshake. Using a firm, adult voice is equally important.
You will lose credibility if you talk like a girl, and not a woman. When you’re serious and need them to listen, lower your voice by an octave.
Act like you believe in what you’re saying, even if, inside, you’re not always sure.
Drop the weak modifiers: maybe, kinda, sorta, you know, possibly, just, well, uhhhh.
And don’t start your sentences with an authority leak.
“I believe we need to take another look at that budget proposal.”
“I feel the kids need to do their chores before they can go to the ball game.”
“I think I’m going to tighten up the return policies at my shop.”
Say the exact same things – but drop those first two words.
Those tiny phrases are Big Authority Leaks.
Women instinctively seek to connect with others with words that are non-threatening and soothing. We use phrases like “Excuse me. I’m sorry but…”
We also tiptoe into conversations with self-effacing remarks like, “This may be a dumb question, but..”
Please don’t do that.
Apologizing for what you say before you even say it waters down your strength. It says “I don’t know what I’m talking about, so don’t listen to me.”
And then we wonder why no one listens to us!
Have you ever watched gymnastics in the Olympics? Athletes lose points if they take even ONE step on the landing after some amazing series of death-defying flips, twists and jumps.
We do the same thing when we say what we think, and then add tag lines that seek approval: Isn’t it? Wasn’t it? Didn’t he? Is that right?
Or if our voice takes that little rise at the end, an upward inflection that sounds like we’re asking a question even if we’re not.
Read this statement out loud:
Following these tips will help you feel stronger, own your own authority, and earn the credibility and respect you deserve?
As soon as you got to that little question mark at the end your voice went up…
Didn’t it? ;-)
Now read it out loud again:
Following these tips will help you feel stronger, own your own authority, and earn the credibility and respect you deserve.
Feel the difference?
I asked a question over on Facebook about this, and you all had a lot to say about what does – or doesn’t – bring respect to a speaker.
Debra spoke about slowing down, and using more declarative statements with men. Shelby talked about how important it is for the speaker to be grounded and self aware. Jennifer said that conviction mattered most.
What do you think?