Is Your Speech Weak? Or Courteous?
In a recent article I found on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, the author argues for women ridding their speech of “hedges.”
Hedges are those little apologetic words and phrases we insert into our speech. For example:
- I’m sorry, but …
- Well, actually, I think …
- In my humble opinion …
The idea is that these little apologies soften your speech and indicate a low level of confidence. And while the article specifically talks to women (it originally appeared in Redbook), this is something men should take note of, as well.
But my question is this: are hedge words actually bad?
Does hedging your speech actually give an appearance of weakness? Or instead, does it indicate a respect for the other speakers and offer some courtesy to help society run a little more smoothly?
- This article (the one I referenced above) advocates giving the ax to hedge words and putting more strength into your speech.
- This article from the Macmillan Dictionary Blog suggests that hedge words may be pretty vital to communication and us all getting along.
Personally, I think it’s a matter of degree. We all know some über-hedging folks who seem to apologize even as they order their lunch. But then there are others who wouldn’t notice a hedge word if it kicked them in the teeth because they’re stubbornly barreling through conversations heedless and disrespectful of anyone around them.
So I’d suggest moderating your hedges. You needn’t preface every idea you have with “This may sound dumb, but …” And at the same time, no one likes it when people bully their way over everyone else’s ideas like Genghis Khan.
Be firm, be confident, and be polite. And just as importantly – be aware of how you speak. Knowing to what degree you use hedge words will go a long way toward projecting the image you want through your speech.
What do you think? Keep the hedge words? Or ditch ’em for stronger language?