The audience laughed when I told them about that woman who informed me with a big smile, “I read your little thingy every week.”
Chances are, they were laughing as much at my outraged expression as at the notion of my “little thingy.
This thingy is anything but little. It’s a big commitment to write to you every week. And I’ve kept that commitment for nearly five years now. This email shows up in your inbox every Wednesday, no matter what.
And based on the feedback I get, my newsletters sometimes have a big impact on people who read them. Chef Vahé Mekhitarian commented on Facebook the other day that he keeps them all in a file. And he’s not the first person who’s told me he hangs onto these articles for future reference.
So why would anyone refer to my newsletter as “little?”
I’m saying it’s a gender thing.
I brought up the issue with my friends at Shape Corp. when I was there to talk about having a more powerful presence as part of their International Women’s Day event.
They agreed with my point: it’s bad enough that “little” comes up in a conversation about my newsletter. It’s worse when women use “little” to talk about themselves and the work they do. And you hear that a lot.
Minimizing language saps our strength. It keeps us from sounding smart and certain of our position, communicating our value, making a potent impression on the people we engage with.
And too many women are downplaying their worth too often.
Not long ago I heard a speaker offer “a little handout.” Another told us she had “a little exercise” for us to do. Women are all the time announcing that they have “a little idea” or they’re working on “a little project.” Or they have “a little suggestion” for you.
Does that sound familiar?
For the love of God, People. It’s your work. Stop calling it “little.”
And that goes for my work too, please. I produce an insightful and often entertaining article for you every week. Not a “little thingy.”
When I coach clients who want to make a bigger impact in the world, this minimizing language is one of the first things we tackle. And I can tell you – it is never an issue with my clients who are men.
Men just don’t refer to their work—or any other part of them—as “little.” (Don’t you s’pose they’re more likely to describe it all as “yuuuuuge?”)
What’s the big deal about a “little” word?
I can promise you this. If you tell us your service, your expertise or the product you offer is insignificant or unimportant, we will believe you.
And maybe without even consciously knowing why, we will dismiss you. We’ll choose someone else who sounds more self-assured, more confident of their value, maybe even more competent.
One thing I’ve discovered with my clients: they’re often unaware of habits like calling their work “little.” So you might tune into your own language. Or ask a friend to listen for minimizing words like “little,” “just,” and “only” when you’re speaking. Or if you have a recording of yourself, listen to that and see if you hear yourself playing down your accomplishments with that kind of language.
And please, you don’t have to overcompensate with self-aggrandizement. I’m not advocating that we boast about ourselves or throw our weight around or exaggerate our importance. That doesn’t do us any good either.
But talk about what you do–everything you do–as if it matters.
Because it does.
Post a comment below to share a story about the words you use and the changes you’re going to make in your language.