Speak to Sell

One of the hardest parts about door-to-door fundraising, besides how my feet kill from walking so much, is the way I have to speak. My directors are always pushing “positive assertive language.” AKA- We don’t ask questions. The only question I’m allowed to ask is, “How are you this evening?” Questions bring doubt into the conversation. Question provide opportunities to say no. That is why instead of asking, “Can I sign you up?” we say, “Let’s sign you up!” That’s why instead of asking, “Is that something you would be interested in?” we say “It is crucial to have your support.” This may sound like a very simple change, but in reality it is not. As an English-speaking female, I have been brought up all my life to speak passively. Sociolinguisticly speaking, English-speaking women are expected to ask more questions, provide more conversational aid (usually in the form of questions), and are interrupted more often. These linguistic features are detrimental to the art of the sell. Women often use questions in order to indirectly accomplish language goals. Women who use more direct language often come off as impolite, aggressive, or rude. These sociolinguistic factors all make it harder for women to succeed in areas of business. I feel myself caught in a catch 22. If I don’t use “positively assertive language,” I can’t make the sale. If I do use “positively assertive language,” I come off as rude and still can’t make the sale. I do add other “feminine” language features to try and balance out my linguistic impression. I add more strong adjectives, use more emphasis, and use more intensifiers, such as “so,” “very,” or “really.”  With the addition of these language features associated with female speech, I’ve had a little more success, but it’s pretty minimal. However, the internal struggle itself is what I find most interesting. I cannot believe how much of a struggle it is to buck off these social protocols. I find myself constantly wanting to “soften” my language. It’s almost impossible for me to go through an entire conversation without adding the occasional “just,” or “trying,” or asking a single goddamn question. Perhaps, my years working with children has made me even more inclined to use passive language. Teachers obviously ask a LOT of questions. As a teacher, I also found myself asking questions for EVERYTHING. “Can I help you with that?” “Do you need more glue?” “Is there anything else you need to do?” “What is our voice volume supposed to be right now?” When I set out to Madison to completely change my course in life, I had no idea just how much I would have to change. I didn’t realize how many “teacher habits” had snuck into my life. It’s a lot of work to undo years worth of routines and idiosyncrasies, but I’m glad to make to change. I don’t want to remain the meek, passive teacher that I was. There’s no way I will be able to accomplish my goals, land a job/internship, or write convincingly, without making drastic changes in the way I speak.

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