We’ve all had the experience of being ignored, talked over, or “mansplained” to. Here, experts share easy ways to help you speak in a way that ensures others will listen — so your voice can come through loud and clear.
Being interrupted is a common challenge for women, confirms social psychologist Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Ph.D., who suggests nonverbally signaling Stop, I’m still speaking by raising your finger. “Moving your hand swiftly away from your body is dominant.” Just do it matter-of-factly, as if to say, I’m almost finished. “You can also say it aloud, which is respectful but indicates you’re not ready to cede the floor.”
Start with an assertion.
“Research shows women have to pack more information into the same amount of time as men just to be heard,” says Eliza VanCort, author of A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space. But we disempower ourselves when we rush. Instead of a speedy monologue, think of it as a back-and-forth game of Ping-Pong. “Say you’re making the point that red pens are better than blue ones. Rather than say, ‘Red helps us focus, because X…’ start with, ‘I think we should use red pens.’ Then follow up: ‘I have research, if you’d like to hear it.’” This lets you reveal each point at your own pace.
Halt the ‘mansplaining.’
Men verbally “hijack” women in three ways: bro-priating, man-terruption and mansplaining, says expert Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D. Bro-priating — a play on appropriating — is when he takes your idea as his own. “Just let him know, ‘Thanks for expanding on my idea; it made me realize there’s something I want to add.’” When it comes to manterruptions, simply say, “Hang on — I wasn’t finished. As soon as I am, I’ll toss it back to you.” As for mansplaining? “I like to say, ‘I’m sure you don’t realize that X is one of my strengths.’ Always assert your best self.”
Turn up the volume.
Say you’re trying to get folks on board with a new idea. Start a bit louder than you normally would, urges VanCort. It conveys authority and allows you to get quieter to punctuate points you want others to remember. “When you lower your voice, people feel like you’re talking just to them and they listen more intently,” she says. Also smart: strategic silence. “Instead of using filler words — um, but, you know — it’s empowering to pause once in a while.” Gruenfeld agrees: “Owning the silence gives your audience a moment to catch up with you to absorb what you’re saying.”
Being a cheerleader for women’s voices not only helps you make connections, it also lifts you up. “After a female co-worker talks, you may say, ‘That’s a great idea,’ or, ‘I think X is onto something.’ Having your voice heard is often about cultivating relationships, because we listen to people we like,” says Frankel. Adds Gruenfeld: “When people feel heard by you, they’re more likely to want to return the favor.”
Practice with pals.
“Whenever you’re integrating new techniques like these, you don’t know what you don’t know,” says VanCort. “So practice in front of the mirror or in low-stakes situations with friends.” Most important, just know that none of these tactics means you’re aggressive. “You’re simply asking for what the other half of the population takes for granted: to have your voice heard and your ideas respected.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.