“retaining only the Habit of expressing myself in Terms of modest Diffidence, never using when I advance any thing that may possibly be disputed, the Words, Certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the Air of Positiveness to an Opinion; but rather say, I conceive or I apprehend a Thing to be so or so, It appears to me, or I should think it so or so for such and such Reasons, or I imagine it to be so or it is so if I am not mistaken. This Habit I believe has been of great Advantage to me, when I have had occasion to inculcate my Opinions and persuade Men into Measures that I have been from time to time engag’d in promoting. And as the chief Ends of Conversation are to inform, or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning sensible Men would not lessen their Power of doing Good by a Positive assuming Manner that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create Opposition and to defeat every one of those Purposes for which Speech was given us, to wit, giving or receiving Information, or Pleasure: For If you would inform, a positive dogmatical Manner in advancing your Sentiments, may provoke Contradiction and prevent a candid Attention. If you wish Information and Improvement from the Knowledge of others and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix’d in your present Opinions, modest sensible Men, who do not love Disputation, will probably leave you undistrurb’d in the Possession of your Error; and by such a Manner you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing your Hearers, or to persuade those whose Concurrence you desire. ”
Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography, Part I from The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Albert Henry Smyth (1907) from The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Seventh edition, Volume A: Beginnings to 1820, Pg483.
I love this reading, but I wonder how it applies to women in the 20th Century. For so often if we appear soft spoken, concerned for the advancement of all – we are considered weak, whereas a man would be considered benevolent. I wonder how the same lack of force can be established without sacrificing voice, confidence or podium time so to speak.