Today’s Thoughtful Thursday musings are all about language – the words we use and what messages they convey. I recently finished reading Judith Humphrey’s book, Taking the Stage, where she talks about the language patterns women use that diminish their leadership presence. The three that I hear most often when working with my clients include asking permission to speak, apologizing too much and using qualifiers that undercut statements. Here are some examples:

Permission requests before contributing to a discussion: 

“May I add something?” “Is it okay if I make a comment?” “Would you like to hear my thoughts on this?”

Many women think that when they ask permission, it’s the polite thing to do. Undoing years of ‘polite’ conditioning is one of the first steps in sounding more like a leader.

Apologizing too much:

“I’m sorry I’m not available right now.” “I’m sorry for bothering you.” “I’m sorry, I’d like to comment.”

There is no need to be sorry for being unavailable, for asking a question or making a statement from your perspective.

Using qualifiers to preface a statement or question:

“In my limited experience…” “I might not have all the information, but…” “You probably have already thought of this, but…”

These types of statements diminish your strength and encourage people to dismiss what you say. Again, it seems polite, but doesn’t work in your favour.

Are any of these working against you? Observe yourself for a week and catch any apologies, qualifiers or permission requests. Once you catch them, congratulate yourself as you’re one step further towards strengthening your language and then gradually work on eliminating them completely. Comment below and let us know how you did.