Simply put, the ability to strategically incorporate what you anticipate others are thinking or feeling as you speak can be a career-boosting skill in your back pocket if wielded selectively and well.

Anytime you are not only speaking your thoughts or views but are at the same time reflecting and incorporating what you believe others may think or feel into what you say, you’re double-voicing. You’re voicing for yourself and for those you’re speaking to or with.

It’s a “double-edged sword” which you might be used to undercut your leadership presence. But used strategically, it’s a masterful skill you can harness as a powerful leadership asset.

Women and Double-Voicing

In studying top-level conversations across seven major companies in the UK, Baxter found one fundamental distinction between male and female leadership language: “Women were four times more likely than men to be self-critical, qualify their comments, speak indirectly or apologetically when broaching difficult subjects with board members or when managing conflict.”

Baxter argues in a Babel article that as women climb the corporate ladder, in order to gain acceptance and approval they practice “serious linguistic work such as the carefully judged use of apology, humor, self-mockery, understatement, implied meaning and deference in order to minimize direct confrontation or criticism from male colleagues.”

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How Double-Voicing Can Dilute Your Leadership

We already know that women’s words often are not treated the same as men in the office. When women are more assertive with their words, they can be judged more harshly than men are, for going against gender norms. So there are strong reasons why women adapt how they speak.

But it’s harmful when women habitually use their tongue to weaken their own leadership stance. According to Baxter, double-voicing can be used to deliver “self-inflicted wounds.” For example, when double-voicing is used to pre-empt how others might perceive you as the speaker, you simply deflate your own authority and words. conservatories merthyr tydfil

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