He Speaks, She Speaks

A gender communication specialist unravels the mystery of how men and women communicate.

Don't Qualify it! Just Say it!

A technique employed by women more than men is the use of qualifiers.

Just say it; don ’t qualify it! Another technique employed by women more than men is the use of qualifiers. Here are some common qualifiers (in italics) used by women:

Well, no.

I was thinking, we could leave at 2 P.M.

It’s time to go, I guess.

It seems to me that is a good idea.

I wonder if we should pursue that contract.

Employing qualifiers is a way that women counterbalance being direct. Again, this linguistic strategy could be argued to serve as a technique allowing for input and consideration of other ideas. However, if the woman feels definite and does not want to appear tentative on an issue, she should eliminate the qualifier. Let me introduce you to my disclaimer: the ultimate mitigation.

Women often employ disclaimers in introductory remarks. Research has identified various types of disclaimers that serve different functions:

1. Suspending judgment. Function: Ward off emotional judgment.  “ I don’t want you to get angry, but . . . ”

2. Cognitive disclaimers. Function: Avoid disbelief or suspicions of poor judgment. “ This may not make sense . . . ”

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3. Credentialing. Function: Identify special attributes of the speaker when the anticipated reaction may be negative. “ Some of my closest contacts are Japanese, but . . . ”

4. Hedging. Function: Speaker is not adamant about their point. “ I could be wrong, but . . . ” (Eakins & Eakins, 1978 , p. 45).

One could argue that disclaimers could be viewed as verbal strategies to mitigate possible negative reactions to what a woman says. But the flip side of this strategy is that disclaimers can weaken women ’ s speech. Why should a woman put herself down? When women need to take a firm stand, minimal or no use of disclaimers is advisable.

Taken from: The Gender Communication Handbook: Conquering Conversational Collisions Between Men and Women (Pfeiffer 2012) Audrey Nelson PhD co-author).

Audrey Nelson is an international corporate communication consultant, trainer, author, and keynote speaker.

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