Do you hold yourself back from speaking up?
How many times has your response been meek or perhaps too aggressive?
Where do you find the courage and confidence to be assertive?
There are many reasons for not speaking up. You might not speak up to avoid conflict, fear of hurting someone’s feelings, or the responsibility that comes with stating your truth and standing in your power. Assertiveness is often incorrectly confused with aggressiveness, but assertiveness is characterized by mutual respect and clear, open, and honest communication. Aggressive behavior on the other hand is disrespectful and shuts people down.
In order to have the courage to speak up and assert yourself, you must let go of your attachment to being liked by everyone. In order to be okay with this, you will need to develop your self-confidence, self-awareness and purpose. This will require you to be in tune with yourself and engaged in the world, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I believe that women have refrained from speaking up for so long that there are now slogans such as, lady boss, (fill in the blank) like a boss, and badass or badassery being used to describe empowerment programs for women.
There’s a lot of energy around getting women to speak up and take more action towards living life on their own terms. I believe this recharge of energy is much needed, however I think that it can often come with a lot of drama. Unfortunately this can diminish the powerful message that is trying to be conveyed without a positive impact.
Speaking up and being assertive, for women as a collective, is absolutely necessary for a cultural shift. To make a positive impact with our messages of being in our power, we must first heal the wounds that have kept us falling victim to life’s circumstances and not speaking up and embracing our power in the first place.
If you don’t take the time and necessary steps to heal, you can easily move into a power-over, self-righteous energy that results in a negative impact, because it puts others down in order to raise ourselves up. Not only does this not give you the opportunity to embrace your power, it may cause you to lose your power in the end. It is very important that you learn to understand your relationship with power.
Taking a power-to approach to speaking up is about knowing yourself by growing your self-awareness, intention, integrity and confidence. A leader is someone who gets something done and is changing the power paradigm from power-over to power-to. We can intentionally change the meaning of power in order to embrace it authentically and comfortably as a woman. Glora Feldt, author of No Excuses, states, that Power-over is the old, oppressive power paradigm that is dying. Power-to is the new paradigm and innovative power and leadership paradigm that is emerging, if we make it so.
Speaking up and asserting your self to claim the lead is essential for you to make a greater impact as a woman. Katie Orenstein, Founder of the Op Ed Project said, “It is important for women not just to have the power to choose; but to choose power.” When you take an assertive stance you directly say what you mean and ask for what you want.
When you leave your feelings unexpressed, anger and frustration can come out sidewise, or not directly. This type of behavior is often termed “passive-aggressive.” Here are some potential scenarios where passive-aggressive behavior plays out. You might respond to your co-workers request to stay late with her to finish a project with a silent treatment or eye roll. Passive aggression in asking for a raise might include sending a complaint about your heavy workload in a long, detailed email, without specifically asking for what you want. While passive-aggressive behavior might make you feel momentarily relieved, your goals won’t be accomplished. By returning to an assertive stance and directly saying what you mean and asking for what you want, you have a better chance of getting your needs met.
Speaking up and claiming the lead in your life will require you to learn about leadership. I knew little about leadership when I chose to become an entrepreneur. I have since soaked up every leadership course I could find and I found the following networking tips to be the most impactful to this day.
Most women love to network, because networking is seen as primarily relational. I think you would agree that it’s essential to be friendly, authentic, and generous to others, but networking must also be done with purpose and intention if it is to be effective. To speak up and network with purpose, two exchanges will usually occur, an ask and an offer.
Asking for what you want by name is a practice women must learn, and to learn you must practice, if you are to build a life and career that you want. It’s part of owning your power and knowing your worth.
Give it a try and see what happens. In every networking opportunity, identify in advance what you want from the interchange. Then at least once during the conversation, “Ask for it by name.”
Make an offer. What do you have that the other person wants or needs? If she or he does not tell you, ask for that information by name too. Is it something you can offer to provide? If so, say so, and be sure to follow through. If not, say so, and offer an alternative that is something you can deliver on.
Once you have made an ask and an offer in a networking situation (it doesn’t matter which comes first as long as both are done), you have created a mutually beneficial relationship. Relationships that are mutually beneficial are more likely to be sustained, grow over time, be more egalitarian and make a greater impact.
I hope this post will encourage you to speak up and not be afraid of your own power and the impact you can make when you assert yourself with purpose and intention.
Teena Evert, MA, LMFT, CCTC, CCC, GCDF, CDBS is a Certified Career Counselor, Global Career Development Facilitator, Life Coach and Licensed Mental Health Professional. She helps her clients successfully navigate important transitions in their life and career with intention, clarity and purpose. She can help you get unstuck, identify your barriers, and move forward fearlessly into a bright future of your own design.
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