Ten Ways Women Sabotage Communication in the Workplace

Glass ceiling or partners in sabotage? While the glass ceiling exists, very often women undermine their success by how they communicate in the workplace. We’ve learned to dress for success but have we learned the language of success? When Catalyst, a non-profit organization dealing with women’s issues asked.

“What holds women back from top management?”
Fifty-two per cent said “Male stereotyping and preconceptions of women. ”

When they asked “How can women succeed?”
Sixty-one per cent said “Developing a style with which male managers are comfortable. ” It seems communication style is vitally important.

Here are ten ways women weaken their image and what they can be do about it.

1. Too much head nodding-When women nod, they mean “I hear you,”
“I understand. ” Men interpret head nodding as agreement with their ideas.
Too much head nodding will be perceived as weakness and may result in miscommunication. Continual head bobbing creates a subliminal message of submissiveness.

2. Uptalk-A rising inflection at the end of a sentence sounds tentative, as if posing a question. This is a real credibility killer. Women will not be taken seriously with this vocal pattern. To speak with authority practice bringing the voice down at the end of a sentence. American intonation patterns use a downward inflection to declare or demand and a rising inflection to question or indicate uncertainty.

This is not true for all cultures. In Canada, India, Pakistan, France and China it is more commonplace to hear the voice rise at the end of a sentence. This pattern is sometimes used by American men in the South or by Generation X. It is not effective for either sex.

3. Weak Language
Tag lines-Some communicators make a statement and then ask for validation. “This is a good idea, don’t you think? “We have the best team, right?” Tag lines weaken conviction and authority. Eliminate them.

Modifiers-Words such as some, just, only, hopefully, and guess, minimize the message and the messenger. “This is just a thought. ” “I’m only a beginner,” “Hopefully, I’ve done a good job,” “I guess I have a question,” are weak statements. They signal a lack of confidence and tell the listener that it’s not very important. Constant apologizing is not appropriate and will have the same effect. Weed out wimpy words and replace them with powerful language. This is most commonly a female pattern.
time to sound confident and full of conviction.

4. Allowing interruptions-Men jump in and say what they think. They tend to interrupt more than women. Women are more likely to allow themselves to be cut off and lose credit for their ideas. Instead, they can say, “I’m not finished,” ” Please hold your questions,” “These interruptions break everyone’s train of thought” or continue talking and finish your point.

5. Not speaking up (Waiting to be called on)-Still waters may run deep but in our business culture, people who don’t speak up are perceived as not knowing anything. Commit to making one contribution at every meeting. It may be as simple as underscoring a point or adding to what ‘s been said. Some women wait to be called on or have difficulty taking the floor. It may be necessary to interrupt to have your say. Do it. You must be heard to be a counted.

6. Dressing too sexy-A visual impression takes seven seconds or less. Clothing and appearance are a visual shorthand. Women who wear spiked heels, low cut blouses, heavy make-up, and micro-mini skirts are communicating sexual availability rather than career mobility. To succeed in the workplace, women must dress the part. You don’t have to sacrifice femininity, but don’t appear too flashy. The goal is to look professionally attractive. To achieve advancement, dress one level above your present position. If you are a supervisor, dress, like a manager. On the opposite end of the continuum, executive women may dress too frumpy. At senior levels it’s no longer what you know but who you are as a leader. If a woman executive doesn’t look the part, she’ll lose respect and credibility.

7. Too soft spoken-A soft or breathy voice may sound sexy but it indicates insecurity or lack of confidence.
Breathe from the diaphragm and project the voice so that every person at the meeting can hear. If they have to strain to listen, they will tune you out. A speaker loses conviction when ideas are presented in a soft voice. Confident women project their voices.

8. Allowing others to take credit for ideas-A common complaint of women is that men take credit for their ideas. When this happens women must learn to speak up and claim their contributions. “Excuse me, I just said that a minute ago. ” “How is that different from what I just proposed?” Do not sit quietly while someone intercepts your idea.

9. Weak Body posture-Cute gestures such as shrugging shoulders, not making direct eye contact, standing with one leg crossed at the ankle and a weak handshake will weaken one’s visual impact. Men naturally take up more space. Hold your ground. Stand tall and sit up straight, make direct eye contact and ground your energy. Channel nervousness by using hand gestures about the waist. Act like you belong. You have a right to be there.

10. Avoiding public speaking. This is one of the biggest mistakes women can make in their careers. Men don’t have a glass ceiling. Public speaking is an opportunity for visibility and equal exposure. Confront your fear, get some coaching, and get out there and shine.

Diane DiResta, President of New York based DiResta Communications, Inc. helps executives to speak with authority and connect with passion to achieve business results and with women who want to make it in a man’s world. She is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz (Chandler House Press). and Conversations on Success (Insight Publishing) To subscribe to a free online newsletter visit www.diresta.com.

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