Recently attended a presentation given by a very smart and talented group of people, but I came away with a powerful impression about girlspeak and boyspeak and a compelling message for people of the female persuasion:
You have got to Channel your Inner Guy when you speak publicly!
Both men and women presented. Both were smart, articulate, but the impact was night and day. Now there were some great women speakers and some not so great men, but there was a steriotypic role tendency that I fall into myself that hit me over the head listening.
You know where I’m taking this. Girlspeak meant presenting their recommendations tentatively, their language filled with caveats, ‘mights,’ ‘coulds,’ efforts to please, to question, to solicit approval, information couched with options and alternatives. If they were a dog, they’d be approaching you head down, ears flattened, tail low and wagging frantically.
And of course the guys would say their piece much more directly and quickly, with focus, specifics, to the point, putting their opinion out there, appearing to know everything, taking the risk. If they were a dog, they’d be sitting up straight or standing, ears pricked, legs apart, tail high, barking loudly for attention.
At worst, boyspeak delivers the not-too-subtle tyranny and bullying of ‘my way or the highway,’ ‘there is one correct opinion & you have just heard it, no conversation, questions or dissent will be tolerated’ and other forms of oppressive language. And girlspeak is sensitizedâ€”in the worst case, over sensitizedâ€”to that, and can go too far to compensate. But let me tell you, boyspeak was a lot easier to listen to!
Frankly, it is exhausting to listen to girlspeak. My stomach was clenched the whole time wondering where the sentences were going, whether there was any certainty or clarity I could hang my hat on, or whether it was all just a morass of possibilities that I was now supposed to figure out and sort through without clear direction, just a few gentle hints and hopes expressed.
I think there’s a happy mediumâ€”a combining of forces that is what a good relationship is all aboutâ€”that captures the best of both.
It entails channeling your inner guyâ€”you’ve seen it in the yin yang symbol,or C.G. Jung’s animus/anima: finding that core piece of “other”â€”of our own direct oppositeâ€”that we carry within ourselves.
It means speaking clearly, confidently, directly, with passion and commitment to your point of viewâ€”but setting things up briefly at the beginning and/or at the end in a way that opens the door to feedback, or sets up the points to be discussed, what those discussion goals are & how that feedback will be managed.
All tentative and qualifying terms need to be ruthlessly eradicated from the general text. If you can’t bear to get rid of them entirely (I can’t) they go into a one sentence direct, opinionated qualifier. You don’t need to say the recommendations are just your opinion (duh!) and for heaven’s sake don’t be apologetic about having an opinion; you insult the person who is asking you for it.
No one is interested in how nervous you are or how unqualified you feel; they just want you to tell them what you know or recommend in as clear and compelling a manner as you can.
Just shut up about everything else. Ask yourself, would a guy ask that? Say that? Worry about that? No. So forget it.
Later, you can graciously open the door to comments (but don’t stop channeling your inner guy).
Unsolicited advice from Isabel Swift
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