Weak Language

When I was in college, I took a course called Language and Gender, which discussed the differences and similarities between how men speak and how women speak. As expected, this course is almost entirely useless in the real world, but some of what I learned was interesting.

When speaking, women reportedly use a lot of hedge words like “probably,” “kind of,” and “pretty” (as in “it was pretty good”). The use of hedge words weakens what the person is trying to say, and it can make the person seem unsure or wishy-washy, even when the person does not mean to come off that way. A lot of the time, women use hedge words because they want to portray themselves as polite; they believe that if they use more direct language, they might seem rude.

But to be more authoritative and to be seen as a strong person and not a pushover, women may want to remove those types of words from their speech. It is hard to do. I am constantly starting sentences with “I think” or “I guess” rather than just saying what it is, and I sometimes use words like “maybe” and “probably” when I know with 100% certainty that there is no “maybe” or “probably” involved. It feels uncomfortable to come right out and make a statement instead of hedging.

It’s good to know that I’m not alone in using this weak language (I wouldn’t consider it women’s language per se, but it is supposedly more commonly used by women), and I’m going to make a more conscious effort to sound like I’m more sure of myself. It’s one of those “fake it till you make it” situations.

3 thoughts on “Weak Language

  1. I do that, too — add qualifying words when I know the facts to be absolutely true or false. Maybe it’s my Quaker upbriinging.

    But there are also situations where “pretty good” is just about it. I am very stingy with words like “great.” The last Avengers movie? “Pretty good” is exactly correct.

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