Women often undermine their own credibility and power by making small mistakes in their communication. I love working with women, because I find they can focus on these details without losing sight of the big picture. It is all about changing small speaking habits you probably use everyday. Some habits are good and serve you well, some are poor and need to be ‘deleted’.
Here’s a list of my top pet peeves. Now these apply to men and women, but I have noticed women display these habits more than men.
These speaking habits will make you look weaker than you are in any situation, from a one-on-one conversation with a colleague, to a boardroom presentation to the C-Suite.
Improving your communication skills will elevate your career and increase the trajectory of your life. ~ Narges Nirumvala
1. Apologizing too much.
Stop apologizing for everything! As women we are used to starting sentences, emails and even presentations with an apology. Unless you’ve done something to offend someone don’t apologize. It’s often unnecessary and draws attention to your weaknesses rather than your strengths, especially if it’s at the beginning of any communication.
2. Using the word ‘just’.
I know this one is really well know, so I won’t dwell on it too much. The other day I met a well-dressed woman at a networking event. I said “What do you do?” she said “Oh I’m just an Accountant.”. When you add the work ‘just’ to something you demean it and make it less important.
You are NEVER ‘just’ anything. Don’t put yourself down, there’s enough people in the world ready to do that for you. ~ Narges Nirumvala
3. Weaken your own argument.
Phrases like “I guess we could…” or “I think we could…” weaken the argument before anyone has even disagreed with you (often to prevent confrontation). It ends up sounding too soft and you lose the respect of your peers (particularly the alphas). You need to firm up your language when you’re putting forward an idea or argument. Just get right to it “We should…”.
4. Going up at the end of your sentences.
Are you an up-talker? Up-talking is when you go up with your tone of voice at the end of your sentences as if you were asking a question. Up-talking makes you sound more like a receptionist and less like an executive. Sorry ladies but there it is. This is something you must work on. You voice should be balanced, but still interesting and expressive.
5. Talking too much and too fast.
I know it’s a stereotype that “women talk too much” but I still see this, especially in meetings. They feel this need to be heard and I completely understand that. I find that some women who talk too much also ending up talking too fast, so they come across as overwhelming and difficult to understand.
Powerful women speak more slowly and only when they have something meaningful to say. So learn to edit yourself. ~ Narges Nirumvala
6. Using too much jargon.
Women often want to up-sell their technical expertise so they can compete in fields where they are in the minority as a result their language can sound overly technical, harsh and dull. You need to minimize your technical jargon unless it’s serving a meaningful purpose.
7. Smiling too much.
This one might surprise you, but I see it all the time especially with Millennials. Bright vivacious young women who smile way too much and don’t know how to be serious and intense. Smiling too much (or too little) is part of your overall body language, which you should become familiar with and learn to manage. I’ll address this more in future articles.
I believe that at the root of all these habits is a lack of self-esteem and confidence. The truth is that this article can help you work on the outside, but the real cause is much deeper. You need to believe in yourself and go into every situation with an “I can deal with anything” attitude.
As women we still fall into the trap of needing to prove ourselves and feeling fake or somehow undeserving of our success. The higher we climb, the more we sabotage our own success in subtle ways. You have earned your moment in the spotlight, so start acting like it. ~ Narges Nirumvala
Narges Nirumvala is the CEO of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International and a world-renowned leadership communication expert. Dubbed ‘The Secret Weapon’ by one journalist, she is an international keynote speaker, award winning entrepreneur, executive speech coach and author of the public speaking and presentation skills book “Capture the Spotlight”. Her clients include executives and leadership teams from Fortune 500 and FT 500 companies. She was selected one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter and is a featured writer on the LinkedIn ‘Leadership & Management’ Channel. Inquire about her services here.