Watch Your Language Series (Part 2) - Devaluing Language

As an Executive Coach I am immersed not only in what my clients are saying but the language they use to say it. I became curious as to why a client would choose to phrase something in a particular way. It was interesting to see the impact that the language they used had on them and those around them. Some of my clients were annoyed that their voice was not heard at the table when they offered an opinion, only to have a male counterpart suggest the same thing and for everybody to jump onboard.

My clients expressed frustration when they could not progress with projects or ideas due to delays in response from key personnel.


One client commented this week, “how can some people get quick decisions and I feel I have to chase and nag for a response?”


We started a discussion about speech habits used, especially but not exclusively, by women in the workplace. Once she started to focus on this, she began to see the devaluing language everywhere.


She realised that in a large majority of emails and communication she had issued in recent weeks, she started with self-sabotaging language, such as:

  • I am not too sure about this…

  • Would you mind if I ask a favour…

  • I just want to check….

  • Would you mind coming back to me….

  • Correct me if I am wrong but...

So what causes us to devalue what we need or want to say?


Childhood lessons and values learned can have an interesting but profound impact on our self-perception of how we communicate. A KPMG study on women in leadership confirmed through that the women’s perception and understanding of leadership starts at a very young age. What was a standout statistic for me from this study was lessons learned in childhood. 86% of women recall being taught to be nice when growing up but only 34% were taught to share their point of view.


Could it be that lessons learned from childhood impact women in the workplace so much that it makes them feel that their voice is not as strong as their male counterparts?

When we talk down our ideas and experience by starting a conversation with sentences such as “Now I am not sure this will work but…”, we not only dilute who we are, we also dilute the work we have put in to achieve results.


In the workplace, the words you use will build the currency of your influence – so stop devaluing your currency.


So where do you begin? Well, consider how you can move away from passive language to being specific, direct and confident.





At a recent workshop for women in leadership, a number of my clients, some in senior roles, have been intrigued when we have this conversation and have gone away to “test out” the theory of devaluing language. A number of them, with varying degrees of skepticism, as they felt they may be perceived as bossy, decided they would be willing to give it a try.


They came back to report amazing results. Once they started to review how they showed up for other people, they found people responded more positively to the requests made, decisions proposed and timelines issued.


Imagine if you took a few minutes each day to review your language, replace devaluing language with empowering language, what confidence it could build.


So STOP apologising and START to see the changes in the way people respond to you. CONTINUE to lead with confidence.


If you put a small value on your thoughts and ideas, be assured that no one else will raise the price.


If you are interested in learning more, watch our for our next 45 minute free introductory workshop to the Women in Leadership “Good Witch Programme”.


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