Open Thread: Girls and “Weak Language” at Work

woman and man shake hands in front of a tiled background; woman wears a red sweater and man wears a black sweater

Girls’s communication within the office has totally analyzed, mentioned, and policed — together with by ladies themselves — however a few of the widespread recommendation on adjusting your language to succeed at work might have a more in-depth look. (We touched on this matter in our put up on unhealthy profession recommendation for girls a few years in the past.) Numerous ideas for girls on sounding extra authoritative appear good at face worth, but it surely’s not at all times that easy.

The New York Instances lately revealed an essay by Wharton organizational psychologist Dr. Adam Grant titled “Girls Know Precisely What They’re Doing When They Use ‘Weak Language,’” (present hyperlink) that challenges the widely accepted recommendation for girls’s office communication. Let’s discuss it!

Readers, what are your methods for profitable communication as a lady within the office? In emails, for instance, do you end up together with the “simply” in “Simply checking in,” or utilizing exclamation factors to melt the tone? (This TikTok strikes a chord for me…) On the flip aspect, have you ever tried to speak extra assertively at work? How a lot do you suppose somebody’s use of “weak” or “sturdy” language is determined by technology/age relatively than gender and sexism?

{associated: find out how to ask for a increase}

Girls and Weak Language at Work

In his NYT essay, Dr. Grant cites analysis exhibiting that ladies, particularly Black ladies, are sometimes punished once they talk extra assertively at work, as they’re typically seen as troublesome or abrasive. No shock there — however he additionally explains how “weak” language can truly be a supply of energy for girls.

He believes that utilizing language seen as “weak” has a number of benefits: It demonstrates “interpersonal sensitivity,” can spare ladies from sexist judgments (and their penalties), and might make it extra doubtless for girls to get what they ask for, corresponding to a increase. This type of language might embrace utilizing hedges (“form of”), disclaimers (“I may be incorrect, however…”), and questions (“proper?”).

In actual fact, he notes, in a single experiment the place ladies negotiated for a increase utilizing a script that sounded tentative, they had been extra prone to get the increase. (“I don’t know the way typical it’s for individuals at my degree to barter,” they stated, . . . “however I’m hopeful you’ll see my talent at negotiating as one thing necessary that I convey to the job.”)

Listed below are a couple of excerpts from the piece:

In 29 research, ladies in quite a lot of conditions had an inclination to make use of extra “tentative language” than males. However that language doesn’t mirror a scarcity of assertiveness or conviction. Quite, it’s a strategy to convey interpersonal sensitivity — curiosity in different individuals’s views — and that’s why it’s highly effective.

And I’m certain we’ve all seen this sort of language, each from ourselves and others round us. However whereas Grant is outraged about it, he additionally notes that we ought to be difficult the stereotypes themselves, recognizing the distinction between assertiveness and aggressiveness:

It’s outrageous that ladies must tame their tongues to guard fragile male egos, however the likability penalty continues to be firmly in place. And it’s outrageous that it’s simpler for me to name out these dynamics than it’s for girls, who get penalized in the event that they dare to level out the identical disparities. As an alternative of punishing ladies for difficult stereotypes, we ought to be difficult the stereotypes themselves.

His conclusion: that we should always normalize weak language as a strategy to “specific concern and humility.” He continues: “If we try this, we gained’t must hold encouraging ladies to speak extra forcefully. As an alternative, we’ll lastly be capable of acknowledge the distinction between assertiveness and aggressiveness.”

{associated: negotiating a wage and different advantages}

Readers, what do you suppose? Does utilizing “weaker” or “softer” language have its benefits at work? Do you utilize softer language as a result of it matches your character and feels pure, otherwise you do it intentionally to keep away from being penalized for a stronger communication model? Do you see it merely as a method to get forward inside patriarchal double requirements? Or, do you talk assertively with a “no-nonsense” tone, it doesn’t matter what? Extra broadly, how a lot of our communication model do you suppose is influenced by many years of gender socialization?


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