Book Summary: How to Say It for Women: Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success



How to Say It for Women: Communicating with Confidence and Power Using the Language of Success

Phyllis Mindell, Ed.D
Prentice Hall Press, 2001

How to Say it for Women provides a thorough and comprehensive guide to all aspects of successful communication, an area which can be especially problematic for working women. How do we communicate purposefully and powerfully, avoiding the pitfalls of seeming too young, too girly, too weak, too lacking in experience and self-confidence, but also without seeming strident, pushy, or “acting like a man”? Drawing on her extensive experience running seminars on language, power, and leadership, Phyllis Mindell shows how language conveys weakness or strength using Charlotte, the word-weaving spider of Charlotte’s Web, as a model. The metaphor may be a bit stretched at times, but It’s less gimmicky than it sounds—as Mindell points out “Charlotte understood the power of language to change the course of events.”

The book begins with “the language of weakness,” describing how the wrong language and bad habits can undermine women. It goes on to cover how grammar works to convey power (or powerlessness), bad habits and how to avoid them, choosing the right words, organizing writing and presentations, giving talks and presentations (including job interviews) from preparation through follow-up, body language, personal style, writing, reading, listening, leadership, handling and responding to insults and put-downs, all the way through managing and mentoring others. Because “the principles of the language of success remain the same even as the settings change,” no aspect of communication is unaddressed—this is much more than a quick self-help book. Although she urges readers to “embrace complexity” and never oversimplifies, the author herself writes crisply and clearly and provides numerous anecdotes and examples, as well as practical how-tos for specific types of communication.

While I was reading this book, I kept wanting to urge people I know to read it. (And not just women! The advice on topics such as avoiding vagueness and preparing a talk would be useful for anybody.) Mindell excels at clear, succinct explanations of what works and what doesn't and why, and provides step-by-step  guides for preparing effective presentations and communications. How to Say It for Women is well worth reading even for those who are already good communicators, since there's always some room for improvement. I highly recommend it.