Women, Find Your Voice!
I get it, sometimes (often, if we’re truthful) we women are not comfortable speaking up. The reasons are as varied as we are:
We don’t think we know enough on the topic
We don’t want to appear pushy
We don’t want to appear to be bragging
We haven’t been invited into the conversation yet
What’s your reason?
And so on…I have news for you, we’re not doing ourselves any favors by not speaking up, offering our opinion, or (god forbid) taking charge of the conversation!
In this article, I will provide some tidbits that will help you get over your “what ifs” and speak up. Full disclosure, as I am writing this I have to keep editing myself…my original sentence read “In this article, I hope to provide some tidbits that might help you get over your “what ifs” and try to speak up.” Notice the difference (hint, I’ve bolded the words that portrayed uncertainty, that were wishy-washy). This is part of the problem, we are so wired to be humble that we minimize ourselves without even knowing it. And we do it all. the. time!
So how do we knock it off? I have some ideas for you.
1. BE AUTHENTIC BUT DON’T GET STUCK IN YOUR COMFORT ZONE
This may seem counter-intuitive, but you have to practice being authentic. We are so used to hiding at least some of who we are that we need to be deliberate in bringing out our authentic selves. The best way to rewire our brains, and change our behavior is to practice. Play out scenarios with trusted friends or family. Get comfortable with who you are and let her shine! But be wary of getting stuck in your comfort zone. I worked with a woman who was a brilliant, smart lady. She was also super-casual, she dressed down (which is fine, if you’re not hiding under your baggy clothes), kept her hair over her face, and kept her head down. One day, she was called upon to present to a group of company leaders, so she made some changes to her appearance. Nothing drastic, still authentically her, but more fitting to the occasion. Something else changed in her that day though, I think she saw herself through new eyes. From that day forward, her demeanor changed, she was more confident and soon after, opportunities came her way that would not have if she kept hiding herself. So bring the best you that you have!
Being authentic doesn’t mean staying stagnant though. Personal growth is something that we should all invest in for ourselves. Not for the job, or for our partners, for ourselves. Sometimes it gets uncomfortable…do it anyway. The biggest growth is in the discomfort. Allow yourself to dig really deep, and I promise you’ll find diamonds!
2. IN MEETINGS (AND ELSEWHERE IN LIFE) STOP APOLOGIZING, IT DILUTES YOUR MESSAGE
We are a tribe of apologizers…stop it! It really does dilute what you’re trying to portray and strips you of credibility. If you really have something to apologize for (but likely you don’t), say “I apologize,” or “forgive me,” but please, please stop punctuating everything with “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry I’m late, I’m sorry I didn’t catch what you said. Instead of saying I’m sorry, say Thank you…thank you for waiting instead of sorry I’m late. Could you repeat what you said instead of “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you”. Then say thank you. There’s a great article on that here.
3. DON’T WAIT TO BE INVITED…SPEAK UP!
Even though being authentic is important, there are some behaviors that we need to change. Women tend to want to be invited: invited to speak, participate, join in. My invitation to you…. cut it out! You have value to add and something to say, speak up! I observed this phenomenon first hand at an event last year. 4 people were participating in a presentation, two men and two women. The activities were preplanned yet when was each of the women’s turn, they had to be asked “do you have something to add?” As an observer, I felt this took something away from their content.
Next, we have a tendency to expect or assume that people know what we want. I call it the osmosis effect, that somehow by us thinking a thought and being in proximity to others that they’ll just somehow “know”. Guess what, they don’t, not unless we tell them specifically. If you want a raise, ask. If you want that promotion, don’t think that you’ll be tapped on the shoulder and be invited, instead apply. Don’t assume your partner knows that you want them to _______, tell them!
4. LASTLY, AT LEAST FOR THIS ARTICLE, TAKE A SEAT AT THE TABLE, DON’T SIT ON THE SIDELINES, LITERALLY OR FIGURATIVELY.
Next time you step into a meeting, take a look around and see who’s sitting where. When you start to pay attention to this, you’ll be surprised at how often we women sit on the periphery, or as far from the seat of power as possible. Instead, take a seat at the table, and as close as you can to the meeting leader (better still, be the leader!)
Try some, or all of this on for size, see if it fits….if it doesn’t fit…make the adjustments you need to make it fit. When you can find your voice and use it, you can change the trajectory of your career and life. I invite you to give it a go!
If I’ve piqued your interest and could use some help making these or other changes in your life or organization, click the Let's Talk button below to get started.