Do You Talk Business? (Language and Women's Place)

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By Isabella A. Woods (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0) Women are from Venus or any of the gazillions of relationship self-help books on the same theme?

Different things are important to us and we communicate our concerns differently.

But for women in business, their normal way of operating may be damaging the health and affecting the perception of their business. This may be one reason why the glass ceiling still operates for some women: an inability to talk the language of business the same way men do. There's no need to go back to the power shoulder pads and masculinized suits of the 80s, but sometimes it pays to talk like a man if you want to be effective in business.

Don't Apologize

Women often sound apologetic in business meetings. For many of us, that's just the way we were raised. Nicely brought up girls never butted in and, if they had to interrupt, did so in a way that made it clear they knew it was a transgression. Carry that attitude into business and the guys will walk all over you. Next time you're in a meeting, observe how the men behave. They are forceful and assertive when it's time to make their point and they don't mind butting in if there's something on their mind. You'll never hear a "sorry to interrupt" cross their lips. If you model this behavior, the guys might see you as unladylike, but they will certainly respect you for your chutzpah and will listen with more attention to what you actually say.

Use Powerful Language

At the same time, how you speak is almost as important as what you say. Women express themselves differently, often more diffidently. Instead of stating the bald facts, man-style, we may preface our remarks with phrases like "it seems to me", "it's my feeling that" and the like. Even worse, we may encourage people think less of us by starting our remarks with "I'm not an expert" or "I'm only a woman, but". This is a no-no. If you want to be successful in business, you have to talk the talk.

Use active, powerful verbs that direct the action. Instead of saying: "I think this is how it could be done" say: "This is what we need to do." See the difference? The second phrasing is much more likely to result in action.

Another thing women do is appear to be asking for approval of their ideas. That's because we are apt to add questions at the end of our remarks. Instead of saying: "That's a great idea" we say: "That's a great idea, isn't it?" which almost invites others to disagree. Men don't do that. They use firm, positive language, and so should we. It's also best to avoid fluffy language with unnecessary words.

Deal in Facts and Figures

Many women sabotage themselves by shying away from the money side of things. Maybe they buy into the perception that girls can't do math, or maybe it's just that they personally don't handle figures well. When it comes to business, you have to be able to talk money and sound like you know what terms like EBITDA and CAGR mean. Investors who are used to online share dealing in large amounts just won't give you the time of day otherwise.

One of the biggest failings of women in business is the tendency to let others take the financial reins. If it's your business, then this is a big mistake. The person in the driving seat has to know and be able to juggle the numbers, so take a crash course in accounting so you can speak with confidence about your turnover and profit.

Don't despair, there are many successful women who get the balance right, and you can too. It's about whittling down your communication to the essentials. It will feel sparse to you, but the men you deal with will listen to you more and respect what you have to say. Try it and see. And remember, there is one arena in which women excel in business -- defusing the tension of too much testosterone and keeping the peace. After all, that's what we've been doing for years.

Editor's note: Got a question or answer for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Isabella A. Woods is a personal finance and business writer and has been living just outside of London for the past couple of years with her partner. She writes on behalf of a number of clients, including an online share dealing company.