Language as a Power Tool

To communicate most effectively, consider your audience first.

Each time you open your mouth, you reveal something about who you are. According to Sarah McGinty, teaching supervisor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and author of "Language as a Power Tool," you communicate best when you tune your conversational style to fit your audience.

What's the biggest misconception about how we use language?

That conversational style is based on gender. It's not - it's based on power. When you're in charge, the words you choose place you in the center of a situation. When you're not in control, you use qualifiers. You insert little flags that signal that you're not trying to run the conversation.

So what's the point - to be bold by speaking boldly?

Absolutely not. Sometimes you need to let other people direct the discussion. There are times when your conversational style is made more powerful by ceding power, so that other people can be heard.

Coordinates Sarah McGinty, smcginty@tiac.com ("Language as a Power Tool" is due to be published by Warner Books in November 1999.)

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