How to be respected without needing to ‘act like a man’
How are you supposed to build confidence and be respected without feeling like you need to act like a loud, boisterous man?
The answer ‘seems’ simple. Be nice! Be polite. BE KIND.
Vague niceties designed to not give you a ‘real’ answer.
Because what do you do when you’re ‘nice’, but no one seems to take your opinion seriously? What happens when you speak up, and are talked over and dismissed in a meeting?
Is it YOU? Do they just not like you? Are they secretly talking about you behind your back and rolling their eyes?
Or is there something else going on under the surface? (There always is!)
The Advantage of Being a Woman
In a world of loud men, and in a world where everyone tries to force you to be an extrovert, you have no idea how advantageous it is to NOT be that way.
Here’s what I mean:
You go into a grocery store, and let’s say you want to buy apples. You go to the produce section. There are different varieties to choose from. But in general, they all LOOK the same. Sure, there are some small differences in taste, but an apple is an apple for the most part.
But what happens when you see an apple like THIS?
So if we’re all being honest with each other, the apple that would first grab your attention is the one that’s packaged and presented better. Whether you choose to buy is another issue.
What this has to do with YOU
I distinctly remember working as a hostess back in New York and being told over and over again to “Sit there and look pretty”. Which I believe is one of the more damaging, negative messages you can say to a woman.
But I decided that instead of relying on my looks I was going to be ambitious. I was going to get out of my hometown, go to a great college, and do things differently. Now, which is more attractive? A woman who thinks that the world will be handed to her if she looks great (even though this does and can happen) or a woman who’s taken her life into her own hands and is determined to carve her own path?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Let’s say the last thing you want to do is be loud to be heard or be ‘rude’ or ‘impolite’ when you say no. What could you do differently?
How about instead of walking into a room and feeling bad for not being as loud as the guy who’s getting the attention, you DELIBERATELY have a strategy to get people to feel deep trust and connection with you by you asking them questions, listening, and then proudly offering an opinion on what to do?
Example: If you speak up in a meeting or on a call and say: “After hearing you talk about X, I believe what would be a great next move is doing ABC.”
It doesn’t matter if people agree with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re ‘wrong’. Put yourself on the other side: when you hear someone talk like that, how do you feel? Perhaps understood, and invested in what they’re saying? That’s exactly the kind of response you want. ENGAGEMENT. Not blind faith or agreement. And not only that, when you’re fun to talk to, ‘disagreeing’ is just a conversation and it’s easy to come up with solutions together.
Reason: Anyone can walk into and be loud and say stuff. And sure, that might get them short-term attention. But that is a lousy, losing game to play. Play the long game by understanding people around you better, and then boldly say what you need to say–as loudly or as quietly as you want. Because remember, the worst position to be in is to be someone people or think is annoying. do not like to be around, or work with.
3 Scripts to Use At Work When You Need to Speak Up, Give Feedback, or Say ‘No’
Too often, we think ‘loudness’ means getting heard. While trying to be invisible won’t work either, it is more about communicating in a way that makes people WANT to listen to you.
Script 1: You’re in a meeting and you need to speak up, even though it seems like you can’t get a word in edgewise. First of all, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to interrupt people–elegantly–in a setting where people are already interrupting each other.
You can interject and say: “I completely agree with you, [person’s name]. I also believe it’s important for us to think about XYZ because [compelling reason].
So what did I do here?
When we think of interrupting, we think of it in a very negative manner. We think it means attacking the other person. But the first part of that script is “I completely agree with you”!. How could anyone get mad when they hear that?
Also notice what I did NOT do, which was say the word ‘but’ after I agreed. You want to frame your statement in a way that makes the other person WANT to listen. When you say words like “But I disagree” it leaves a bad taste in the other person’s mouth, especially if you don’t have a close relationship with them that would allow you to be more straightforward with them.
Script 2: You’re in a situation where you need to give feedback to a co-worker, someone who reports to you, or even your partner. We usually avoid this because in our hearts, we hate to make people feel bad. We don’t want to do it! We feel it’s much better to avoid than say something that would hurt someone’s feelings.
But there’s a way to do this that is both elegant and inspiring.
You can say: “I noticed that ‘X’ happened. Can you tell me more about what happened on your end?”
Listen to them explain, and then you can say: “When ‘X’ happens, I feel [or so-and-so feels] ‘Y’. I believe what would help prevent this from happening again is if I do A, and you do B. Do you have other ideas about what we could do?”
Notice again how collaborative this statement is. Remember that above all is you want people to listen to you…not roll their eyes and scoff at your requests behind your back. At worse, feel resentful.
So what did we do here? First, you make a very objective observation. “I noticed this happened” and then you as the person to tell THEIR side of the story so you can better understand what happened before you make assumptions. It’s like when you try to scold a child–what is their reaction? They shrink in fear and shame. They don’t have bad intentions. And neither do a lot of people. Get their side of the story first.
Then after you let them speak, you tell them your side of the story. Maybe you felt disappointed, frustrated, scared, or fear of getting pressure from other people. Then, you come in with a potential solution and solicit the other person’s thoughts. Now you’re not demanding they change their behavior–you’re coming up with a new way to do it *together*. The key word! Together. Now they feel like you’re peers and they WANT to do what you want them to do.
Script 3: You’re in the middle of doing important work, and you get a request for your time. Maybe it’s via email, your phone rings, or your boss is the one coming up to you in-person and asking you to do something right now.
If the ask is a non-urgent and non-important thing, you can say: “I’d love to help you. I’m working on this until [X time]. Can I help you/get that to you by [Y time]?”
This is literally a magical phrase. Why?
Notice at no point do you say ‘NO’ or ‘I can’t’ to the other person. You first ‘agree’ that yes, you will help! And then you say very subtly that while now isn’t the right time, you’re happy to make time in your schedule. Better, you’re proactive by the exact time you’d start or have the work done for them by.
How does the other person feel? Likely, fantastic. Because people hate to hear you say “I can’t”. It makes everyone feel helpless, especially if it’s work related. And even if you really couldn’t help, you can always say: “I’d love to help you. I’m working on this [X project that’s important]. Let me see if [Y person] can help you with this.”
The very simple act of framing things in a way that makes people WANT to hear what you have to say–and most importantly–RESPECT it is to respond in a matter that shows you are in complete control, have confidence in your ability, and respect the other person’s ask and feelings.
Which one are you going to try to use today? Reply back and let me know. I always read, and love to respond.