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Verbal Communality

Talking about oneself is always a challenge. Showing confidence and highlighting one’s expertise without appearing overconfident is a valuable skill. Research shows that too much self-promotion can have a negative effect on how a woman is perceived in the workplace. The best rule-of-thumb is to always be honest – be honest about your successes and knowledge, but don’t be afraid to use phrases such as “I think that…” or “This isn’t my area of expertise, but…” when you’re not sure.

Watch this video of Jane Goodall. Notice how she speaks confidently about her abilities and expertise (3:06) but is also willing to admit when she isn’t comfortable with a particular topic (4:55 – 5:20). 

Expressing confidence in other people is a great way to begin fostering healthy, productive working relationships. While it may sound trite, people tend to like people who they think like them back. Acknowledging a colleague’s expertise or praising a co-worker’s successes communicates warmth and likability.

Watch how Janina Benyus builds up her audience in this speech. Between 7:27 and 7:51, she acknowledges who her audience is and subtly praises them for their advancements in the field she’s discussing. 

Effective communication is about dialogue – sharing ideas and actively listening to others. Research shows that women who reach decisions in the workplace through dialogue are more influential and successful than those who choose a more authoritative style. Even if you’re the most qualified person in the room to make the final decision, actively involving colleagues in the decision-making process will be received more favourably by others.
Self-disclosure (revealing details about your personal life or feelings) communicates warmth and likability. Within limits, self-disclosure adds a personal touch to speeches or talks and can make your message more relatable for the audience. Self-disclosure can also be a warm way of showing how or why you have expertise in a certain subject area. Watch this fascinating video of Jill Bolte Taylor presenting her research on strokes and consider how self-disclosure adds value to her speech.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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