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The Hidden Power of Weak Language with Alison Fragale

Haley Paskalides  |  October 11, 2023

Women have long been told to be assertive in the workplace. New research tells us otherwise. Alison Fragale explains.

“Don’t you think this is the best option…”

“Maybe if we went in this direction instead the client would be happier…”

“I’m a little bit concerned that our numbers aren’t where we want them to be…”

These are examples of “weak” language that many of us use in the workplace… We’ve been told to stop using language like this if we want to be respected, get a promotion, or have our ideas considered in a room full of men… But now some new research is flipping this long-held belief on its head. In an experiment from psychology journal Sage, women who followed a script using weak language were actually more likely to get a raise… Researchers found that by acknowledging their boss’s authority and avoiding arrogance, women came across as more likable and open to negotiation Alison Fragale, an award-winning research psychologist specializing in the power of powerless speech, joins us on the HerMoney Podcast this week to go over how to use language as a tool and other tricks for gaining and managing our status. 

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Alison Fragale knows all about how women can use this information to get ahead at work. She says that the way we speak is one of the tools we can use to gain and manage our status. For us to respect people, we need to believe two things about them: “One, they’re capable. They’re smart, they’re hardworking, they get things done,” Alison says, “The other piece is that they’re giving. They’re gonna use their talents to help other people and not just help themselves.” 

LISTEN: How To Negotiate Fearlessly

We also talk about how to control other variables if changing the way you speak is not a tool you’re comfortable using. For example, “It can be your educational credentials. It can be the way that you answer questions in a meeting. It could be your position at work. Recognize all the tools you have and then use the ones that work for you. You have choices,” Fragale says. 

In Mailbag, we hear from a listener who’s been out of work due to the strike and asks if she should dig into her stock investments. We also hear from a dad who’s worried about how to best pay for his four children to go to college. For our money tip of the week, we talk about whether or not you should refinance your student loans (don’t panic)!


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The HerMoney podcast is supported by      Edelman
All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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