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Using Language to Build Confidence

You’d never guess that Leigh Isaacs, a WomenToKnow Advisory Board member, is an introvert. On stage as IG peer group vice president for large audiences at International Legal Technology Association conferences, Leigh captures her audience’s attention with clear, concise language and confident presence and poise. But Leigh’s public speaking skills didn’t appear out of thin air. She cultivated her ability to speak and teach by challenging herself to work part-time as an aerobics instructor back in the 1990s. At first, she hated every single minute of it. Little by little, it felt more comfortable. Today, she owns an audience whenever she gets up to speak.

To develop her extroverted mask, Leigh had to overcome an initial tendency to step back, fold her arms in nervousness and efface herself from the crowd. Be it on the podium or in day-to-day emails, many women use linguistic ticks or body language that -- subconsciously or not -- indicate deference or subordination. In her excellent article “‘Just’ Say No”, Ellen Petry Leanse points out that women temper requests with the filler word just (“I just wanted to check in…”) far more frequently than men. What feels like an act of respect can end up as a subliminal invite for the other to take authority and control.

As with Leanse and her colleagues, WomenToKnow workshops unite women professionals in legal and legal technology so they can take practical steps to overcome shared challenges as they invent, re-invent and advance their careers. Recognizing a need starts a dialogue; executing small changes with a trusted group of peers makes a difference.

Want to kick the "just" habit and speak your clear truth? Join us for a WomenToKnow breakfast workshop, throughout the summer in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington DC!

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