A while back I wrote a post on eight seemingly “little” (but really not little) ways women undermine themselves with their words.
We add the word “just,” to shrink the power of what we are saying, “I just think…” “I’m just the local manager…” We use tentative questions, when we really have a statement to share. We discount what we are about to say: “I’m no expert, but…”
Of course, sometimes we do this strategically, in order to not be threatening, but quite often, we overestimate how much we need to do this, or we do it simply because these diminishing speech habits have become reflexes.
Today, I want to talk about one habit in particular. In my Playing Big course, most participants see this one as holding them back the most.
It’s the rushing/piling up words thing.
So many of us (including yours truly) have the bad habit of piling more and more on in our speech. We link a bunch of phrases together with and, so, but, because – and never really get around to putting a period on the sentence and starting a new one. Plus we rush, speaking fast, never stopping to pause.
The next time you find yourself doing this, feel what is happening for you. What you feel might run deep. A deep discomfort with the truth of what you really have to say. A fear about how the other person might react. A fear that what you have to say couldn’t be smart enough if it was said in just a few words. A fear of the power you actually hold: the power to lay it on the table, simply, put a period on it, and allow a silence in the space.
Among all the great powers that are our inheritance as human beings – the power to choose, the power to act, the power to love – we were also given this great power: the power to say it simply, put a period on it, and wait in the silence. Our ability to speak directly, simply, succinctly is one our mightiest, sacred powers – and it one many women still shy away from.
I invite you to run an experiment this week.
1. Slow down your speech.
2. Punctuate. Do not pile on 7 run on clauses on top of each other, or connect clause after clause with “and” or “so.” Get friendly with the short (less than 7 words), simple sentence and intersperse those with longer ones. Short, simple sentences sound like this: “I disagree.” “I am so proud of you.” “I’d like to see the company become more family friendly.” “I am prioritizing my artwork this month.”
3. Pause. Take a breath. Get friendly with brief moments of silence in between your sentences, and when you conclude what you are saying.
Click below to listen a short audio version of this post. I share an example of the two different ways of speaking so you can hear it aloud. If you are reading over email, click here for the audio.

Tell me in the comments: are you aware (maybe newly aware after reading this post) that you don’t pause or punctuate in your speech? What do you think is the root cause of that for you? And, if you are taking on the challenge I’m posing above, let me know you are in.