June 2015 FEW Meeting Recap: Women’s Powers of Persuasion

Recap: “The Art of Persuasive Communication”  – June 11, 2015

By Sabine Becker-Thierry, FEW Programs Director

June Meeting 4What do we women value about our own styles of communication? When do we feel most convincing and when less? With these questions Dr. Nancy Snow, professor and current Abe-fellow specializing in media and PR, propaganda and public diplomacy guided the audience through an interactive evening on Women’s Powers of Persuasion.

We often think of women as particularly strong when it comes to communication. And yet, women remain less visible than men. Just look at the newspaper: how many times are women cited and how many more times are men cited as experts on hard power topics such as politics? Men are perceived as ‘natural authorities’ as Dr. Nancy Snow explained. They do not need to qualify themselves whereas women have to. That’s also why it is important to be aware of our own communication style and how to improve it.

That includes knowing your ‘verbal tics’. Think of women that ‘uptalk’ – they end a declarative statement as if it was a question. Immediately, these women are perceived as uncertain – although their argument may be a strong one. Or when women start their sentence with ‘I feel like’, ‘I think’ more than men to qualify what they are about to say. This can lead to associating women with hyperemotional states over rational states of being, a la ‘she is a little too emotional for the job’.

Reactions from the audience were that it wouldn’t hurt if men also used qualifiers such as ‘I think’ when not stating facts but their own ideas, but it was agreed that when working with men it is best to be assertive in terms of communication style. For instance in negotiations, as one member shared her experience, simply ask what you want and say you are not there to negotiate about it – and you may be surprised how well that works! Another woman shared that it helped her to write down in advance what she wanted to get out of a negotiation and to rehearse those arguments.

Tone is another important feature of communication as Dr. Snow mentioned. Lower tones are associated with authority and truth for both men and women. While softer tones as often exhibited in women are seen as friendly, non-aggressive, and helpful – ultimately hinting at the motherly and caring ‘female’ characteristics.

So what does it mean to be persuasive as a woman? Clarify how much you are motivated by a need to be liked versus a desire to be respected. Then become aware of the strengths and weaknesses in your communication style. Often we may not be aware of our own verbal tics or even replicate stereotyped thinking in other women, for example when judging them in professional situations. Checking in with your friends on how your tone and tics come across and not being shy of asking for their advice is a great first step. And FEW members will be more than happy to share their tips and experiences as the June meeting showed.

About our speaker

June MM Nancy SnowDr. Nancy Snow is an Abe Fellow and Visiting Professor at Keio University completing a book on Japan’s global image and reputation since 3/11.  Snow is former Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton and maintains an Adjunct Professorship in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. She has held visiting professor appointments in China (Tsinghua), Israel (IDC-Herzliya), Japan (Sophia/Keio) and Malaysia (UiTM), as well as Syracuse University’s Maxwell and Newhouse Schools. Dr. Snow is the author, editor, or co-editor of ten books, including Propaganda and American Democracy,Information War, Propaganda, Inc, Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy and the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations.  Snow is a two-time recipient of a Fulbright (Germany, Japan) and has served as a U.S. Speaker and Specialist in Public Diplomacy for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

To learn more about Dr. Nancy Snow., visit her website:


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