sorry, just and the other things we say…

By February 10, 2016 8 Comments

“I just think…”
“I actually disagree…”
“I’m no expert in this, but …”
“Does that make sense?”

There are a number of little turns of phrase – these and others – that women commonly use that undermine how powerfully we come across.

Recently, there’s been a ton of media attention around this topic. Much of the media coverage has directly referenced my writings on this subject.

Unfortunately, many of the TV and radio soundbites have missed the complexity and context that I think is so important for women and men to understand.

I wanted to have the space to talk about the nuances of this topic and address questions I’ve heard from you, questions like,

“If I take all those tentative phrases out of my speech, I’ll be considered abrasive or arrogant by my colleagues. Isn’t it sometimes strategic to soften what we say?”

Or “Why aren’t we telling men to stop saying these things? Is this just one more way of criticizing women?

And, “Is this really what we should be talking about – given all the issues around women’s leadership and empowerment we could be giving our attention to?”

For more on these and other questions about how we speak and write, check out my essay for LinkedIn’s Pulse here.



Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Donna Bailey says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this! Language is so powerful and the fears that women have about losing their softness is understandable.
    Not using tentative language is something all of us need to examine if we want to deliver important and powerful messages to an audience or to each other. Avoiding things that sound apologetic or unsure will help us do our work, build strong relationships and sound like the bright, powerful, soft, strong women that we are. Thanks again for the message!

    Donna Bailey, Life Coach
    Donna’s Big Red Chair

  • J says:

    I agree with your article that the use of words does soften the effect or become less commanding. However there is another use of punctuation that bothers me more with many women who are mothers.
    When I want to leave home I will tell my children to “get dressed” while I overhear many women say ” let’s put our coats on, OK?”
    Are you giving them a choice or a command?

  • Julia says:

    Well done!! Home run Tara! I hope that Linked In piece goes viral!!

  • Catherine says:

    Yes, I find that because I tend to get straight to the point without any of the softening phrases I’m seen as a know it all/ harsh/ abrasive and given a wide berth by people, especially other women. I’m not sure of the solution, because I don’t see why I should change my ways of speaking. I like clarity and brevity, not all the woffle.

  • Just got your book-excited to read it!

  • Donna says:

    Hello Tara:
    Your essay on LinkedIn was thorough, thoughtful, and richly informed by your personal/professional coaching experience with many women. You patiently addressed the various circumstances and histories that may underlie language habits, re-opening the complexity of issues that easily become folded into buzz topics and trivialized. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to intelligence and compassion, and your profoundly creative, searching vision. In a bullet-pointed media culture that constantly consumes, subjugates,and appropriates women’s insights and acts of resistance, you speak as a calm voice of vigilance.

  • Christine says:

    I recall reading about this same topic decades ago…it is somewhat dispiriting to think it is still an issue. One can express oneself confidently without coming off as abrasive…and after 65 years I AM an expert at this!!

  • Tammy Hudson says:

    I stopped using “just” the first time you posted about this several years ago!It really makes a difference to me if no one else♡

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