It’s no secret that the type of language we adopt, the way we say it, and the words we choose to use, all have a tremendous impact on how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us.We might not even be consciously aware of them and their impact. Even the smallest subtleties can make a difference between being and not being heard.
In his modes of persuasion, Aristotle makes a clear case between the three primary and distinct elements needed to convince an audience. Logos, the appeal to one’s logic and reason, will only get you so far. Pathos (the emotional appeal) and, more importantly, Ethos (the speaker’s credibility) are also needed to make one’s case and be heard by others.
Unfortunately, many women (and men) in the workplace struggle with these modes of persuasion, particularly with the Ethos. Several elements go into establishing the ethos, but the most important of these is choosing an appropriate language for the audience and the proper vocabulary that goes with it. Below, we’ll be discussing several of these aspects when used in a business setting.
The Language You Choose to Use
When talking about self-assertion in the favourite TV show, The Office, Robert California, played by James Spader, said that “the fallacy is thinking that it’s up to the steamroller. It’s up to the object whether or not it gets flattened.” This statement could not better express the situation at hand.
It’s when women embrace the already-established gender stereotypes that they get steamrolled by their male counterparts. Many are under the false impression that by becoming assertive, they will appear too strident and not personable. Likable women sometimes give the impression that they’re not capable, while competent women may seem unfriendly. It is an all-too-common situation that women encounter in the workplace.
Many women are under the false impression that by becoming assertive, they will appear too strident and not personable.
It’s qualifier words like sorry, actually, just, or almost that make a standard work demand seem like a request. These words are mostly used to temper needs and expectations and will commonly reduce a woman’s power and position when using them in a male-dominated environment or situation.
The Amplification Strategy
The so-called amplification strategy is a technique that has been used in the past by other women to great effect. When President Barack Obama first took office, many women working in the White House noticed that the President didn’t acknowledge their contributions. They began implementing a strategy they called amplification.
Simply put, they banded together and formulated a plan that ensured their ideas were heard. What’s more, this strategy denied the men in the room from claiming any of these ideas as theirs, sometime down the line. In short, every time a female staffer made a critical point, the others would repeat it and give credit to the author. Subconsciously, this forced all the men in the room to recognize all of their contributions. “We just started doing it and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former female Obama aide.
This strategy proved to be widely successful in the Obama administration. Not only did the President began noticing their contributions and started calling more often on women and junior aides for their input, but by the second term, half of the White House departments were headed by women. White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said that “It’s fair to say that there was a lot of testosterone flowing in those early days. Now we have a little more estrogen that provides a counterbalance.”
Use the right approach with boldness
It’s possible for women to make their voices heard in the office. By not accepting the gender stereotypes as a given, by not using so many qualifier words, and by employing the amplification strategy, women can significantly improve their situation.