Over the years I’ve mentored and coached a lot of women. Sometimes these are formal, ongoing relationships, other times it might be a quick cup of coffee, and then there is the “fly by” bits of encouragement doled out in quick tips in support groups. I was thinking about the questions I’ve gotten most frequently over the years and realized they all centered on ways to speak up.
Especially from women experiencing divorce. Some find it difficult to speak up and advocate for themselves and end up feeling defeated emotionally and legally. Whether it is divorce, relationships, career issues or anything else, if you don’t use your voice and share your point of view you’ll not have any role in life other than being a peacekeeper.
5tips to help you find your voice.
1. Raise a Ruckus
Make a statement, express an opinion. If your points are sound, let them fly!
Too often women sit back and stifle their own viewpoints in the name of peacekeeping. Remember, this isn’t about you, this is about getting to the best decision for you. Your viewpoints are essential to challenging groupthink. Play it out. You raise an opposing perspective. The group debates and discusses. At the end, they stick with the original idea. Now everyone, including you, is more comfortable with the decision. Good outcome. Alternatively, the group debates and discusses and decides to change course. Again, good outcome.
2. Say No & Multiply the Impact of Your “Yes”
Stop saying yes to everything! You are not superwoman. Both inside and outside of work, get better at saying no. And when you do say yes, ask yourself, “Can I multiply the impact of this yes and accomplish more than one goal through this single activity?” You might be surprised how easy that actually is. Listen to Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker talk about multipliers and how we can all rethink time. Only you can define how you spend your time. Being able to say, “NO” means spending time on things that are important to you achieving what you want in life.
3. Stop Using Submissive Language
To be most impactful, keep your language strong. Two words in particular often creep into women’s speech, and they aren’t particularly useful. The two words? “Sorry” and “just”. Think about these two sentences:
“I just need this one piece of information.”
“Sorry, but I need to find out where we are on that project.”
Compare that to, “Hey Dave, I need one piece of information to finish up my presentation.”
Or, “Mary, I’m calling to find out where we are on that project.”
Or, “Ex, your offer of child support is nowhere near the money I need to make sure our children are provided for.”
Without modifiers, both sentences are stronger. Which means the speaker will be perceived as stronger.
We’ve all done it. Last week I said “sorry” twice. And there was nothing to apologize for! We lessen ourselves without even realizing it. Amy Schumer has done an entire skit on the word sorry. It would be funnier if it wasn’t so true.
4. Demand Feedback
I met with a talented young woman recently and discovered that none of her male supervisors were giving her candid feedback. And she was giving them a pass on it because she didn’t want to create a kerfluffle.
Let’s be clear. No matter who you are, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for them, leaders are there to help you grow. It is their JOB to give you constructive criticism. If they aren’t, demand it from them. Ask about competencies, and then run down the litany of things they might be unwilling to bring up themselves. Appearance, manner of dress, vocal tone, speaking style, body language, and the list goes on. If they’re uncomfortable, make it clear that you aren’t.
5. Fill Your Own Well
I know many women who take care of everyone else around them, at work, at home, in their community and never take care of themselves. Whether it is time to exercise, read, connect with others, a hobby or a passion, take time to invest in yourself.
Hopefully, you already know what fills your well, the things that replenish you when you’re drained. For me, it is writing and painting, and lots of family time. They’re what I turn to over and over again when I am in most need of peace and recharging. And I don’t apologize to anyone for needing that. Why? Because I know I’ll be a better version of me, both at work and at home, when I return. In short, if I don’t do #5, numbers 1 through 4 get a lot harder.
So speak up ladies! We need to hear your voice. The world will be better for it.