, , , ,

This is the third post in the Take Back Your Power series of posts.

Personal power (InPower) is not something we’re born with, it’s something we master – like learning to balance on one foot – as we progress on our journey to lead change in the world. First we master it for ourselves, and then we use it as we work with others, helping them access it personally and in group, together applying it in combination with external power to change the world for the better.

InPower is not easy to see, like external power is, but it is easy to feel. Lucky for us, we humans were given some sure-fire indicators of when we are in and out of our personal power to help us diagnose and correct our InPower stance. Most of these indicators are emotional, but before we can master our emotions and what underlies them, we must learn to read the signs of emotional reactions and biases we may not even be aware that we have. Why? Because although we may not be aware of them, we telegraph them constantly to those around us, and thus others are often even more aware of our emotional state than we are. This is by definition an out-of-power place to be in.

Our internal understanding of ourselves, affirmed or enhanced by others’ reactions to us, are key indicators our state of InPower balance – or wobble.

Language is an indicator of your InPower stance

Words and language have many gifts to give us in addition to the ability to communicate with each other. We use language to communicate with ourselves, too, interpreting the sensory and emotional impressions of our reality. When you catch yourself talking to yourself, this is often what you’re doing – processing your reality. Unless you talk to yourself at the expense of others, it’s completely normal and good. And, if you pay attention to your language, it will provide you insight and power over your subconscious InPower stance. As you practice obtaining and maintaining InPower balance, your language – internal and external – will begin to shift and change, becoming not just an indicator, but a source of your power.

But first you must learn to “hear” yourself from an InPower perspective and listen for your InPower and out-of-power voice. In another post we’ll talk about what you are saying, but for now, just learn to listen to how you are saying it.

Power Words

When you speak – to yourself or to others – your choice of words can quickly tap you into your current power stance. Power vocabulary is positive, specific and declarative. Out-of-power words are passive, imprecise and qualifying. Here are some examples:

I am I think I am, I will try to be
I will I should, I could
Bring this back to me by Tuesday (nothing) or Send it back soon
We will We won’t, maybe, how about if

As a side benefit, positive speech – especially self-talk – helps reduce stress so you get a two-fer!

Language is an easy-to-use women’s power tool

Language is an important indicator of everyone’s InPower stance, but it may be especially important for women. A book by Dr. Judith Baxter, The Language of Female Leadership, recently examined language in senior executive and boardroom meetings for power patterns. While the study was looking specifically at differences between how women and men use language, the trend it picked up on was women’s tendencies towards out-of-power speaking. Specifically the study identified a specific type of out-of-power language, “double-voice discourse,” which is used by both sexes but more frequently used by women leaders. As reported in the Financial Times’Women at the Top blog, double-voice discourse occurs when the speaker prejudges the audience’s response and qualifies their initial statement accordingly. “Correct me if I’m wrong…”is an example of this.

From a four million word sample, Dr. Baxter found that women were four times as likely to use double-voice discourse than their male counterparts. Ladies, this looks like a simple fix, doesn’t it? Watch your language and gain back as much as four times your power.

In Part II of this series (scheduled for September 15), I’ll give examples of power language in common use and insight into how to turn your words around into power words.

Want to explore this topic in more depth? I’m offering a new eGuide on Speaking Powerfully, including a simple and highly effective 1 week excercise to learn to watch your langauge and speak powerfully. This eGuide is FREE when you register for the eCourse Speaking Truth to Power, held October 16-November 11. This course will go deeper than just your words and help you retrain your brain and emotional dialog to help you know what your truth is and release your fear of speaking it so you can get ahead in your career and be true to yourself in the process! The course is offered at your convenience so you can fit it around work, family and fun.

This post originally appeared on the Reclaiming Leadership blog. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, InPower Insights, for power-coaching advice, InPower surfing suggestions and recent blog posts.

Dana Theus