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A woman struggling with being interrupted at work? Handle it with these tips.

A woman struggling with being interrupted at work? Handle it with these tips.

If you find yourself being interrupted by your male counterparts at work here are a few active tips to help your voice be heard.

Last week’s NYT article about, “The universal phenomenon of men interrupting women” really hit home.  We hear from many of our female clients that they struggle to be heard over their male counterparts.  Seeing Senator Kamala Harris battle being interrupted by her colleagues while questioning Jeff Sessions proves no one is immune.  Much ink has been devoted to dissecting why this happens.  Some articles that are worth a read here, here, and here.  So it’s definitely a thing.  That happens a lot.  What can you do?

EMPLOY SHINE THEORY.

Having your idea shot down only to have a male colleague pass it off as their own later in the same meeting = FRUSTRATING.  Also sometimes referred to as “amplification”.  It involves women repeating each other’s ideas during a meeting to help ensure they are heard.  It also can aide in preventing other men from claiming the ideas as their own.  So ladies, circle up before that next staff meeting and strategize in advance!  (For more of a deep dive on Shine Theory take a listen to the interview Leah and I did with Mavenly’s Women, Work + Worth podcast.)

ESTABLISH YOUR BOUNDARY UPFRONT.

Before sharing your comment it can help to articulate your desire (and right) to finish your thought to the entire room.  This will help avoid creating an uncomfortable situation by singling out the culprit in front of everyone else.  This is especially helpful to have in your back pocket if you’re going into a meeting with someone who has interrupted you repeatedly in the past.  Preface offering your idea with a version of the following.  “I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular issue and I ask that you hear out my entire idea before responding.”

ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.  

Chances are if you are constantly being interrupted you are not facilitating the meeting with the offender(s) in question.  Find a quiet moment to speak confidently with the person who is. Communicate your frustration and ask for their help diffusing any interruptions in the moment.  Sometimes we feel others should inherently understand what we need instead of explicitly asking for it. You may surprised to find your boss or team leader hadn’t even noticed the issue. Oh and people like being asked for their help.

AVOID UPSPEAK & DROPPING THE ENDS OF YOUR SENTENCES.

‘Upspeak’ refers to phrasing a declarative thought as a question.  You’re essentially going up in tone at the end of your sentence when sharing a definitive opinion or idea.  It’s a way we assert ourselves when we want to seem amenable and non-threatening. It’s also a surefire way to detract from your power.  Conversely, dropping your volume at the end of your sentence results in the same effect (and emanates from the same place of self-doubt). Own your voice!  Finish your thought with authority and conviction.

BREATHE.

Being thrown off mid-thought is a deeply nerve wracking experience.  If (or when) it happens take a moment to take a breathe, center yourself, and recalibrate your thoughts.  Dwelling on the fact you were just interrupted throughout the rest of the meeting is a waste of your focus and energy.  Let the moment pass (you’ll effectively deal with it later using the awesome tips you now know about above!) and soldier on. Don’t give your interrupter more power by letting them disrupt your thoughts as well.

Finally, suffering in silence helps no one-least of all you!  Share your challenges with us @bespokenNY.  Or drop us an a line and let us know about your experiences trying out any of the above tips.

Small Talk: Follow these tips to transform any interaction from dreaded to productive

Small Talk: Follow these tips to transform any interaction from dreaded to productive

We dread small talk but we don’t have to. Transform small talk into a welcome opportunity with these tips.

You dial into a conference call right on time. It’s just you and another person on the line, and you’re waiting for two more. Your anxiety rises, and you bring up the weather to fill the silence.  “Is it spring yet in Chicago? Here in New York…” it feels fake and forced. Despite your best intentions, you feel trapped by small talk. That’s no way to start any interaction!

Most people despise small talk but I think it gets a bad rap. We don’t want to feel inauthentic. We are not comfortable with silence. We feel pressure to make the interaction work, when in reality, that’s a two person job. How can we feel more in control of these interactions without avoiding them all together?

For introverts especially, it’s essential to transform small talk from a dreaded nuisance to an opportunity to begin a new relationship—even if it’s one that only lasts for 30 seconds.

Here are tips to avoid feeling inauthentic when faced with small talk:

Think Up Topics

Whether you’re heading into a networking event or a wedding, it’s likely you’ll be chatting with someone new. Think of a few relevant topics you can bring up if you feel cornered in an interaction. What new TV shows are you watching, or are you taking a trip sometime soon? People love to talk about themselves so ask questions and go beyond the weather.

“It’s Not You…”

We feel pressure to perform in small talk situations. Reframe the experience and make it all about the person you’re talking to. Focus on making them feel comfortable. Make eye contact and remember their name.  Remember that if you’re uncomfortable so are they. Practice getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable and less afraid of silence.

Make an Exit

The interaction will not last forever (promise!) and it’s okay for you to decide that it is over. Rather than making up an excuse to go to the other side of the room—and then avoiding that person until the end of the night—make a solid exit. “It’s been nice talking to you—I hope you enjoy the rest of the event” is acceptable and respectable when the time has come. It shows you value the interaction and the time spent together and gives you an out as well.

Why Finding Comfort in the Discomfort is Key to Confident Public Speaking

Why Finding Comfort in the Discomfort is Key to Confident Public Speaking

The phrase ‘old habits die hard’ exists for a reason. Especially when it comes to confident public speaking.

Making the decision to actively change your communication style can be daunting.  Even so, you’re ready to commit to making a change.  Maybe you’ve reached this point on your own.  Or a subtle suggestion from a colleague or friend that did the trick.  Or a not-so-subtle suggestion from your boss.  Regardless, you’re committed to doing what it takes to achieve your new public speaking style.Yet undoing old habits is difficult.  And changing how you speak when speaking publicly can feel counterintuitive to the way you’ve always known.  

So how can you overcome these uncomfortable sensations? And avoid them derailing you from achieving your communication goal? Acknowledge that different doesn’t equal bad.

A few weeks ago, a quirky client with a goofy sense of humor was preparing for a high-stakes pitch to potential investors. I encouraged her to employ a more direct and confident tone. She expressed concern that delivering her pitch in this manner felt “false”. And what’s more, seemed imprudent. Why would she want to purposely exclude the part of her personality that she found ingratiated her to many people?

After successfully explaining how self-deprecating quips and unrehearsed comic relief could easily backfire(!) we spoke at length about finding comfort in the discomfort.  In other words, communicating differently in order to effectively get what you want may feel like “not being yourself” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Awkward sure.  But an important indicator that you’re actively working on implementing the change you set out to achieve.

Maybe you are often complimented on your warm and easy-going nature.  Or lauded for your ability to quietly and deeply focus on a task.  Yet these same characteristics that make you ‘you’ may not serve you when public speaking.  And letting go of them can be uncomfortable.

Most detrimental public speaking habits tend to rise to the surface making them easier to identify and correct.  

Some that come immediately to mind: overuse of hand gestures.  Employing unnecessary fillers such as, “like” and “sort of. Formulating a response before the other person has finished sharing their thought. But for many of us, beneath these superficial facets of our communication style live characteristics deeply rooted to our sense of self.  Which can be linked to powerfully potent feelings such as fear and our sense of self-worth.  Examples include the sound of your own voice. Making direct eye contact to invite your audience’s gaze.  The cadence and pace of your speech.  Even something as simple as standing up straight when speaking publicly can trigger feelings of intense vulnerability.

In his recent article for Forbes, “Communicating Effectively In Times of Change,” David Villa shines a light on the importance of a strong sense of self when working to lead external change. “I believe that all great leaders possess an understanding of their own behavior [and an] understanding of their own thoughts and feelings. I feel strongly that the same holds true with internal, self-propelled change as well.

Embracing the sound of your voice as it fills the room, slowing down and giving your audience time to absorb your ideas – can trigger discomfort.  Reminding yourself that this discomfort is not bad but quite the opposite is important.  It’s proof that you are doing the hard work required to replace longstanding bad habits with good ones and are taking control of the impression you want to make.

 

 

Why doing theater makes you a better communicator and a stronger leader

Why doing theater makes you a better communicator and a stronger leader

Photo: Neil Magnuson and Harold Lehmann in The Resurrection of George (photo by Katie Kline)

At Bespoken, we come from the theater. Learn how theatrical experience makes you a stronger communicator, a better listener and a more effective leader. 

Before Bespoken, Jackie and I devoted most of our time to bringing theater to non-traditional places and voices. I spent years directing plays in basements of bars in Brooklyn. Jackie spent her time helping non-profits and students amplify their voices through the arts.

Theater is a great way to practice thinking on your feet and making a connection. It flexes the muscles of public speaking, storytelling, and intuition. Whether or not you intend to ever take the stage, experience in the theater makes you a stronger communicator. It can even make you a better leader.

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” – Ira Glass

Storytelling is the most effective way to get ideas out into the world. And scientific evidence backs this up. Paul Zak’s research proved that when the brain produces oxytocin (which happens when we hear stories), people are more “trustworthy, generous, charitable, and compassionate.” Research shows that after a presentation, 63% of the audience remembers stories while only 5% remember statistics. Playwrights constantly edit their stories to make them more efficient and actors then have a daily audience on which to test it out and pivot in order to make their storytelling more effective.  Takeaway: Theater is the quickest way to hone your storytelling skills on the page and on the stage, giving you immediate feedback from a live audience—and invaluable resource.

“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of you intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” – Alan Alda

If an actor has one job, it is to explore and exert empathy. In rehearsal, actors examine and uncover a character’s intentions, backgrounds, motivations and objectives. And if it’s not immediately clear in the text, they use their imagination to dream it up. Understanding a character (even an unlikeable one) and portraying them truthfully onstage is no small feat. The magic of live theater means that actors continue to explore the limits of their own empathy with an audience in the room every single night. And because anything can change at a moment’s notice we have to listen—to our fellow actors, to the audience, to ourselves. The fate of the play depends on it. Takeaway: Practice active listening and being in someone else’s shoes to build intuition, a necessary skill for any leader.   

“Please use your voice. Refuse to be silenced. Make the work. Turn your rage into action. Find your inspiration. Find your resistance and resilience. Hold it close. Get loud.” — Leigh Silverman

In theater school, we train our voices and bodies to be receptive. Passionate emotion is available—not because it is forced but because the actor knows how to access it in a truthful way. We build our voices to be able to fill a 500-seat theater and work our bodies to be malleable, depending on a character’s needs. We know how to be heard, and how to make a point as effectively as possible. Takeaway: Work with a vocal coach or take a movement workshop to flex these muscles, grow your voice and own any room you walk into.  

“No mistakes can be made during rehearsals, only progress toward what works best.” — Jim Jarmusch

Actors practice practicing—that’s all rehearsal is. Rehearsal is where preparation meets collaboration. Actors rehearse to be truthful, so that when they get onstage (the least natural environment of all) nothing can go wrong. They have prepared for every possible scenario, and a good director makes sure of it. Takeaway: The technique of preparation and the discipline of rehearsal are transferable skills, whether you are practicing for a keynote speech, preparing for a team meeting or having a challenging conversation with an employee. 

“The only safe thing is to take a chance.” — Mike Nichols

The first rule of improv is to say “Yes”. Another improv rule is to make statements, not ask questions. Improv is about getting comfortable not knowing what comes next. It’s a safe space to practice being in charge while also being collaborative and positive. Improv helps you improve communication, self-confidence and projecting yourself as a leader. It’s why improv classes for professionals have been so popular in the past few years. Takeaway: If you have trouble thinking on your feet or speaking off-the-cuff in meetings, throw yourself in the deep-end and take an improv class. 

So, flex your theatrical muscles, even if you never intend to take the stage. Take an improv class, write a screenplay, or work with a coach. And let us know how it goes!

Sales Speak: How to use communication to close the deal

Sales Speak: How to use communication to close the deal

What is the cost of bad communication in sales? Follow these tips to use clear, concise communication when closing the deal. 

Whether you’re a rep on a sales team, a small business owner courting clients or an entrepreneur pitching your product, odds are you have something to sell.

Since the 1970s, most job growth has been in the service industry. Before that time, most jobs were in manufacturing. Communication and presentation skills are essential in these client-facing situations. And yet, so few people receive training to improve professional communication skills.

First, it’s important to understand how customers make buying decisions. Seventy-one percent of the population bases it’s buying decisions on believability and trust. Seventy percent of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems whereas thirty percent make decisions to gain something. If you’ve got something to sell, it should solve a problem, and you should be believable and trustworthy.

Ninety-eight percent of top salespeople identify relationships as the most important factor in generating new business. We’ve been working with sales teams all over the country and those who know sales agree: You cannot be a good sales rep without strong communication skills. Empathy, confidence, clarity, presence and preciseness are all necessary traits. So, how can you cultivate these qualities and translate them to the sales process?

Prepare and practice

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Map out the sales call in advance in the shape of an agenda—and frame the call for your customer at the top of the conversation. Knowing that you are going to tell them about your service, and then ask them about their needs, before talking prices and process helps you set expectations and helps your client feel in control. Expect, prepare for, and overcome objections—even putting a few minutes aside to think these objections through will set you up to succeed.

Ninety-three percent of communication is non-verbal (on the phone, tone is 86% of our communication). So, practicing your delivery is key. Have an audience-focus and think about how you want to make the customer feel (it will help take the focus off of yourself). And focus on selling yourself, not your product or service. You are the key differentiator from your competitors—knowing your competition and being able to articulate how you are different will help you stand out.

Listen actively 

When someone feels heard, it is indiscernible to feeling loved. This is a powerful tool, considering that most purchases are emotional ones. If you’re in person, make eye contact, ask thoughtful questions without interrupting, and be physically present. Follow this formula when talking to a potential client: 100% of all talking = 75% from the client + 25% the salesperson. 100% of all listening = 75% the salesperson + 25% the client.

Say what you mean 

Seventy-nine percent of communicators say they use too much jargon.  Record your pitch and pay attention to words that are industry-specific. Most likely, your client will not fully understand what it means, or it may even turn them off. Remove jargon from your language and practice saying the words you mean to say. Keep it “stupid-simple” and you’ll be helping your client feel like the product or service is crafted just for them.

Paint a mental picture

Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. When speaking to your client, paint a mental picture or tell a story—they’re more likely to feel connected to what you are saying. And follow up with visual marketing materials that back up the necessity of the product or service you are selling. It will help them remember you and your story longer.

Follow through

Gaining a new customer costs six times more than it does to keep an existing customer.  When you satisfy a disgruntled customer and resolve his or her issue, that customer will typically spend 10 times as much money on future purchases than he or she did on the initial purchase. Nurture your relationships. Spot problems early, and solve them. If your customers feel valued they will value you in return.

 

 

Voice of Reason: How to mediate a difficult conversation

Voice of Reason: How to mediate a difficult conversation

Want to mediate a difficult conversation?  Here’s how.

Navigating conflict is never pleasant.  And it can be doubly hard to witness friends or colleagues in the midst of a disagreement that doesn’t directly involve you.  Especially when you find value in both sides of the argument.  This week we offer guidance on how to communicate neutrally and mediate a difficult conversation. Spoiler alert: remaining neutral doesn’t mean you won’t have to communicate your opinion.  Rather, you’ll communicate an opinion devoid of judgement.  Just the facts, ma’am, if you will.

Schedule some QT

I recommend carving out time to talk privately with those involved in the dispute individually.  It’s important to establish that your conversation is a means to an end.  In other words, discourage a confessional or ‘bitch fest’. Instead, frame the conversation as a necessary step on the road to resolution.  It’s important that the person in conflict understands you intend to use the information they share with you in your pursuit to help identify a resolution.

Active listening skills are also crucial. Pay attention. Maintain eye contact.  Do not interrupt.  Visualize what’s being said. When necessary, ask questions in order to better understand their feelings. And what they need to regain their sense of safety and respect.  At the root of almost of every conflict is the feeling that those you’re in conflict with don’t respect your needs or value what’s important to you.

Insert Yourself Into the Equation

Once you have an understanding of each person’s individual experience and what they need in order to move beyond the conflict you’ve reached a powerful juncture. Ask yourself, what is the best way to neutrally convey these feelings on behalf of those involved?  How do those involved need to hear what they have not yet been able to understand or acknowledge? We often impress upon our clients that it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Meet On Neutral Ground

Pick a spot where everyone feels safe.  Maybe it’s your local bar.  A park or coffee shop.  Perhaps the conversation has to happen at work.  Do your best to identify a physical setting that’s private and isn’t the “scene of the crime”.  Maintaining a calm and neutral setting will put those involved in a better position to communicate openly and honestly.  

It’s crucial that everyone arrives with a clear understanding of why they’ve come together.  Is it to reestablish a line of communication?  Reach a compromise?  Retain respect for one another while agreeing to disagree?  Crystallizing the objective ahead of time is a productive way to begin a difficult conversation.

Now You’re Ready to Mediate

Start by thanking everyone for coming together and acknowledge that it’s awkward.  Not shying away from the fact everyone’s uncomfortable will set a precedent for speaking honestly.  State the pre-established communal objective for coming together and ask everyone to verbalize their agreement to it.  There are many studies that have looked at how saying ‘yes’ engenders feelings of goodwill and camaraderie.

Now frame each person’s feelings on their behalf.  Be careful not to ascribe value or judgement. Yet don’t shy away from sharing your assessment of the situation.  Your neutral vantage point is valuable and can guide those involved toward understanding how others are feeling.  

Then give each person the floor one at a time. Discourage yelling which releases adrenaline and cortisol.  This tightens blood vessels and sends blood pressure soaring.  The conversation may become quite uncomfortable but that’s not necessarily bad.  

Hopefully a resolution will be reached yet if it isn’t that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  Creating a space for people to communicate calmly and honestly is an admirable feat.  Give yourself credit for working to help others communicate effectively and truly be heard.

Money Talks: How to communicate your value in financial conversations

Money Talks: How to communicate your value in financial conversations

When it comes to conversations about money, are you positioning yourself for success (or are you avoiding the topic altogether)? 

Did you know that nearly half of all Americans say that personal finance is the most challenging topic to talk about? We avoid talking about money even more than we avoid talking about death, politics and religion. A recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 millennial women found that more than 50% never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28% feel stressed out about money every single day. Something’s gotta give.

When a recent episode of the podcast Death Sex and Money turned to personal finance, the conversation got awkward and heated. Sallie Krawcheck, the founder of Ellevest, has spent her life in conversations about money and host Anna Sale is one of the greatest interviewers out there. How can we embark on these conversations in a way that feels productive and safe when there’s so much risk involved?

We know that we’re avoiding conversations about money with our bosses, partners and clients. But are we also avoiding conversations about money with ourselves? Is there such a deep-seated fear of our financial futures that we avoid thinking about it entirely? As communication coaches, we see this avoidance when it comes to speaking in public. In fact, 74% of us are terrified of public speaking, and most of us fear it more than death (sound familiar?).

The Gender Gap 

I recently co-hosted a webinar about communicating your value with Savvy Ladies, an organization that provides invaluable personal finance education for women. It got me thinking about the connection between communication and success. According to Gloria Steinem, “Nothing changes the gender equation more significantly than women’s economic freedom”, but how can we set ourselves up for financial success if we can’t communicate our worth?

We recently commemorated #EqualPayDay but women still early 80 cents to the dollar that men make. And that’s only for white women–women of color earn significantly less. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. Well, we’re not going to wait that long!

To fill the gap, we need tools to help us have these conversations with each other (and ourselves). We need tools to communicate confidently and ask for what we want! Especially because women experience unconscious bias (check out my recent article on women and executive presence in the workplace). Whether you are an entrepreneur pitching your services to a client, a freelancer valuing your time, or a professional asking for a raise, follow these steps to prepare and practice for conversations about money.

Articulate Your Goal

If there was a newspaper headline for the conversation, what would it say? Craft one for yourself and return to it as you wait for the conversation to happen. Be deliberate and picky with the words you choose. Make it personal and specific!

Before the conversation, identify unconscious behaviors like qualifiers (Kind of, Just, I think), filler (You know, Uh, Um) and apologies (I’m sorry, uptalk). Unconscious behaviors create gray areas which can cause you to come off as less confident than you are, and no one needs that!

Take Up More Space

If your default posture is hunched, you’re likely to go further in that direction in challenging conversations. Instead, practice opening your body language–uncross your arms and legs, find your center and lead from the chest.

Literally take up more space with the sound of your voice. Don’t rush, and imagine the sound of your voice hitting the walls. And wear shoes that make you feel powerful! Embracing Embodied Cognition makes you feel and appear more confident.

Connect Don’t Convince 

Talking about money is hard because it makes us vulnerable–we have something to lose and that’s never fun. It’s likely that the person you’re talking to feels vulnerable too. Instead of trying to convince them to give you that raise, focus on making a connection instead. Maintain eye contact–even if they divert their eyes, remain present with them.

Eye contact also releases a chemical called phenylethylamine which simulates being in love. The person you are speaking to will automatically feel a personal connection to you. When talking about money, that’s a win-win.

Could you repeat that? 3 steps to improve communicating with an accent.

Could you repeat that? 3 steps to improve communicating with an accent.

Are you a non-native English speaker navigating an English speaking workplace? Does your accent pose a communication challenge from time to time?

Are you asked to repeat yourself?  Or asked to repeat words containing a particular vowel sound that consistently trips you up?  Being unable to communicate effectively and efficiently can be a nerve-wracking experience.  

What’s more, the American Speech Language Association acknowledges that having difficulty communicating with those around you can lead to avoiding social interaction.  And frustration from having to repeat yourself all the time.  These feelings over time can negatively affect personal and professional relationships as well as job performance.  The tips below are geared to help you avoid shying away from words you’d really like to use (or perhaps must use) when communicating at work that are difficult for you to pronounce.

#1: Identify Potential Trouble-spots In Advance

Speaking in front of an audience, especially when you’re aiming to impress, can be a stressful experience. And this is true for English and non-English speakers alike.  Add in the extra challenge of navigating a workplace presentation in a language that’s not your own and that stress rises to a whole different level.  If you will be speaking from prepared notes the first thing you should do is prepare your talking points using words that best describe what you’re trying to convey.  Don’t compromise the content of your presentation by purposely avoiding words that you don’t like pronouncing – yet.  Once you’ve finalized your content print it out.  Recite your presentation out loud a few times and when you reach a word that you have difficulty with highlight it.  Then, create a separate list containing only the highlighted words you’ve identified that give you trouble.  Print this out too.  Now you’re ready to tackle what’s tripping you up and regain your control.

#2: Break It Down

Now you have your list of words that give you trouble.  Say each word out loud no less than 10 times.  I know this sounds excessive but it’s important.  It will help make the feeling of the word in your mouth more familiar.  It will also increase your ear’s familiarity with the sound of your voice pronouncing it.  Increasing comfort in both of these regards is important .  The last thing you want to be focused on in the middle of your presentation is a word you don’t like pronouncing coming up two sentences away.  You want to be connecting with your audience and communicating with confidence!  

Repeating the word this many times outloud will also provide you the chance to play with speed. Practice saying the word slowly, then fast.  Then purposely over-pronounce and exaggerate each of the vowel and consonant sounds.  If you gain understanding of why it’s difficult for you to pronounce the word you regain some power and control-power you may feel you lack after previous verbal exchanges using this word that were frustrating.

#3:  Get out that smartphone.

Nowadays every smartphone contains a voice memo app. Record yourself reciting the full sentence in which the word appears.  Do the words that occur directly before and/or after the troublesome word influence your pronunciation of it?  Note this if so, and make any necessary adjustments.  Once you’ve done this for each sentence where a highlighted word exists, record yourself giving your entire presentation.  When you listen back to the recording pay close attention.  Are there any moments where you hear hesitation?  Or where you recall losing your sense of control?  Continue practicing until you no longer experience discomfort or lack of assuredness when you reach these moments in your presentation.

Finally, enlist someone you trust – a friend or a colleague – and practice your presentation in front of them.  It’s important that you bridge the gap between practicing alone with your voice recorder to sharing your thoughts with a live audience.  You may notice that the progress you made alludes you at first.  Nerves have a way of doing that.  Be patient and kind with yourself.  Just take a deep breath and try again.  If you are willing to invest the time you will find that over time words that seemed impossible for you to pronounce will have worked their way into your everyday vocabulary and you’ll be using them without a second thought.

Women: Improve Confidence + Executive Presence in the Workplace By Embracing Your Strengths

Women: Improve Confidence + Executive Presence in the Workplace By Embracing Your Strengths

Women in the workplace: Want to be heard? Know (and use) your strengths!

This #WomensHistoryMonth, we helped women all over the country speak with confidence and conviction. From the Women & Allies group at AIG in Los Angeles to the Makers of AOL Boston to a Savvy Ladies webinar talking about money, we are a proud women-owned business helping women be heard. We work with men too, but working with women has a special place in our hearts.

But our hearts break when we see what women are up against. A study by Harvard, Wharton, and MIT found that men’s voices are perceived as more persuasive, fact-based, and logical than our voices, even when reading identical pitches. A recent report by LeanIn and McKinsey found that ladies who negotiate for a promotion or raise are 30% more likely than men to receive feedback that they are “bossy,” “too aggressive,” or “intimidating.” Women still earn less than men (79 cents to the dollar). And that’s just for white women; women of color earn substantially less. Yale psychologist Victoria Brescoll asked employees to evaluate executive performances and found that female executives who spoke frequently were given 14% lower ratings of competence.

We can give you all the tools in the world to face these situations with strength and ease, but we cannot change how we are perceived. What we can do is zero in on our strengths, what we naturally do better than men.

Data suggests that women-led companies perform better financially. When leaders are called to influence a wide range of groups, we as women are better at that kind of leadership than men. We need to understand why this is and use our strengths to our advantage, instead of trying to be more like men.

Women Listen

Research shows that men only use half their brain to listen while women engage both lobes. “Listening is key to effective working relationships among employees and between management and staff”, according to Chron. Listening makes you a better leader. Take advantage of the fact that, as women, we are naturally better listeners than men, without any added effort. Tune in and listen to yourself when making financial decisions. Hear unconscious behaviors and be sure you’re speaking intentionally and deliberately. Actively listen to those around you and you’ll be ahead of the curve when solving problems and promoting new ideas.

Women Empathize

Studies confirm a greater empathic response in females than in males of the same age. Empathy in business is vital to maintaining success. Unfortunately, studies show that college students today are 40% less empathic than they were 30 years ago. While many men may try to improve their empathic tendencies, empathy comes naturally for most women. Use empathy to build each other up and foresee problems before they arise. Amplify women around you, especially if they’ve been looked over or treated unfairly.

Women Collaborate 

We are better collaborators than men. Luckily for us, the modern workplace depends on teamwork. In Give and Take, Adam M. Grant talks about the rise of the service sector as a reason for this change. Get in a “giving” mode and think of what you can do for those around you. Invest in this strength and surround yourself with people who are team players. Listening and empathy will help you be better collaborators too, and better leaders all together. It all goes hand-in-hand after all!

What are your strengths?