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Much has been said recently about the type of language which women use in the workplace. Women have been found to be using specific wording which is thought to indicate deference and subordination.
The reality is, while some generalisation can be made, everyone speaks and reacts to language in different ways. These are some of the words and phrases which are thought to be used by women too often.
Thinking and feeling
One example often discussed is the use of “think” versus “feel” in conversations. Research has shown that otherwise identical messages can have completely different meanings if they are prefaced with “I think” or “I feel”. Research has found that people who are more emotionally-orientated favour messages which begin with “I feel”.
People who are more thinking-oriented, unsurprisingly, react favourably to sentences starting with “I think”. It was found that women were likely to use the more emotional sentences. It has become common practice at companies for men to avoid the more emotional term, leading to emotive and creative people feeling judged and inferior.
A “just” argument
The use of the word “just” was recently highlighted by Ellen Petry Leanse, who has worked at Google and Apple. She said the word, used far more often by women, could be damaging to their credibility. “It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realised that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”
A number of arguments have been made to refute her thoughts about the word. Many felt there had been insufficient research conducted to effectively prove the point. A call for people to be less judgemental was often made.
Sorry is the hardest word
Earlier this year, a Google Chrome extension was released called Just Not Sorry. It was intended to highlight words and phrases in emails which might undermine points made. The extension was created after a grouping of women discussed their usage of the words “just” and “sorry”. They were concerned the words made them look weak and prevented them from gaining respect.