Home / Posts tagged "women"
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.

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?


How to Speak Up (Without Losing Your Voice)

How to Speak Up (Without Losing Your Voice)

How to prevent losing your voice, just when you’re beginning to find it.

Last week, millions of people all over the globe came out to speak up and be heard. Marches around the world gave voice to many people who had never marched before. Some were marching for themselves, but even more marched for their neighbors, wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, and grandmothers. We saw 80-year-old women, groups of tweens and three generations of families. In these tumultuous and terrifying times, millions of people are using their voice. If there’s a silver lining, that’s it. But are you losing your voice (literally or figuratively), just when you’re beginning to find it?

As week one of the new administration came to a close, thousands of you voluntarily went out to JFK on a Saturday night. What is this new reality? Mirah Curzer‘s article, “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind” struck a chord with many new activists. Self-care has become a necessity and information overload is leading to conscious media breaks to store up and refuel. Many others are struggling to find balance in these changing times and burning out on the regular. Others are literally hoarse with voices that are unable to recover between protests.

As we continue to #resist, here are tools and techniques to sustain and strengthen our voices:

Start meditating: If you don’t already have a mindfulness practice, start one now. You can download an app like Headspace or keep commitment minimal with Meditation Lite (where you simply count breaths in and out). Meditating is about training the mind and fixing and releasing attention—not about getting rid of fears/thoughts/feelings. Practicing presence can help stave off downward media/despair spirals.

Know what you want to say: While you’re endlessly calling your Reps, think about what you want to say. Rather than sticking to a script, have more ownership by articulating the essence of what you want to ask. Be specific and practice saying it a few times while improvising and changing up the words.  Include stories, which change the brain by activating the Trust molecule. Most importantly, make a connection with the person on the other end of the line. Not going great? Luckily you’ll be calling daily so try again tomorrow.

Amplify your voice:  Ever wonder how babies can scream for hours and not lose their voices? Tension builds up over decades and inhibits and strains our vocal cords. If you’re newly protesting and you’re exhausted, you’re doubly at risk for losing your voice. And bottom line: If you don’t have a voice you can’t be heard.

Losing your voice is real, but it can be avoided with preparation. Practice three-dimensional breathing and speaking from your diaphragm. Bring an amplification device, like a bullhorn or cardboard tube. Drink water and stay hydrated to prevent vocal fry and exhaustion. Practice Amplification: Speak out for others and let them speak out for you. (And if you’re in New York City, join us on February 11th and Amplify Your Voice with Bespoken and Lisa Pertoso!)

Take breaks: Declutter your phone, and put it away for a while. Take mindfulness breaks. Practice Square Breathing. Seize opportunities to get out of your head and into your body. Cherish friends. Hug your family. Smile at a stranger and invest in your community. These are strange times, but speaking up and empowering others to do the same is the best way to get through it.



What She Said: A History of Women’s Voices

What She Said: A History of Women’s Voices

As female founders, we believe in the intrinsic power of women’s voices.

Recently, we appeared on the Women, Work and Worth podcast to talk all about women’s confidence (listen to the episode here) and we’re excited to co-host a workshop with Lisa Pertoso of Follow the Fear on February 11th entitled Amplify Your Voice: For Women in the 21st Century Workplace (register here – space is limited!) to help women’s executive presence. In honor of the Women’s March on Washington next weekend, here we pay tribute to women’s voices:

The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving.

Gloria Steinem

There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children

Marianne Williamson

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Maya Angelou

It’s impossible not to love someone whose story you’ve heard.

Sister Mary Lou Kownacki

I want to do everything in the world that can be done.

Fanny Kemble

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

Our willingness to learn and engage with our own vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose. The level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

Brene Brown

It’s your life, but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial.

Eleanor Roosevelt

A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.

Nancy Rathburn

I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.

Lily Tomlin

We have a whole new year ahead of us and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other, and a little more loving, have a little more empathy, and maybe – next year at this time – we’d like each other a little more.

Judy Garland

What is perfection, anyway? It’s the death of creativity, that’s what I think, while change on the other hand, is the cornerstone of new ideas.

Diane Keaton

Real leadership comes from the quiet nudging of an inner voice. It comes from realizing that the time has come to move beyond waiting to doing.

Toni Morrison

You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.

Grace Lee Boggs

Who did we leave off? What are some of your favorite quotes by women you admire? Leave us a comment and let us know.


Business Communication Skills for Women: UNapologize

Business Communication Skills for Women: UNapologize

Last week, Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto co-hosted a Twitter chat with New York Women in Communications, Inc. (follow them @NYWICI) to give women tips and tools to UNapologize, and other communication and presentation skills. You tuned in with questions and comments about the challenges of effective communication in a male-driven workplace and we hope the chat gave you more ownership over how you communicate. If you missed it, check out the recap here, and here are some takeaways:

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-15-10-pm screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-28-06-pm screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-28-15-pm screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-28-28-pm screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-29-30-pm screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-30-02-pm

FOX_0187Inspired to help people own their voice and be heard, Bespoken was founded in 2014 by Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller. Friends who met in acting school a decade before, Leah and Jackie channel years of professional theater experience into developing techniques to help people speak their story with power and precision.

Are you being heard? Putting amplification into practice.

Are you being heard? Putting amplification into practice.

Women in Obama’s administration developed a strategy called amplification to help each other speak up and be heard. Here’s how you can amplify your speech and amplify your reach.

BeSpoken March 2016 © Julienne Schaer
Bespoken Co-Founder Leah Bonvissuto

Female staffers in the White House are practicing effective communication skills with a tool they call amplification, where they repeat key points made by other women in the room. According to Juliet Eilperin’s September 13th piece in The Washington Post, “This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution—and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.” From the piece:

“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.

These women set an intention, took action, and practiced it—all necessary steps to change any ingrained behavior. It’s hard for women in the workplace to be heard but it’s only in recent memory that we were let into the workforce in the first place.  Women have always contributed to every facet of society, but only now are we taking ownership of our contributions. We are acknowledging how deeply the gender divide divides. We may be on the verge of electing our first female President, but we haven’t even done that successfully—yet.

The Roadblock

A report by McKinsey and LeanIn.org in September 2015 revealed that “at the rate of progress of the past three years, it will take more than 100 years for the upper reaches of US corporations to achieve gender parity.”  If we’re acknowledging it, why isn’t it getting better faster? It’s not just systemic problems preventing women from taking over the C-suite. This very conversation is a roadblock between women when discussing the gender divide. Many women reject that the responsibility is on us because the deck has been stacked against women throughout history.

In Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg writes that “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives—the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men.” Sheryl’s “argument is that getting rid of these internal barriers is critical to gaining power.” Sandberg has since recognized how hard it is for single parents to lean in and it’s important to view the practice as a guiding star rather than a road map.

How will the world change when we see our voices as primary rather than secondary to men? How will the world change if the default voice belongs to a woman and not a man? As we enter this new era, how do we let go of conscious and unconscious behaviors that are no longer serving us?

The Solution

Let’s not tell any woman what she should or shouldn’t do or say. Instead, let’s make sure every woman has the tools she needs to be intentional, aware and in control of what she does and says.

Many of us educated post-feminists are speaking up for the first time. We don’t want to admit it but we desperately want to be heard. It’s exciting and scary to do anything for the first time. Learning how to speak in public and articulating your thoughts, feelings and ideas can be terrifying. That’s why amplification put into practice is so inspiring. Women building executive presence need structures, techniques and safe spaces to develop these new behaviors.

The Tools

Amplification is just one tool that can help us develop communication and presentation skills and hold ourselves and those around us accountable. Here’s some others to help amplify your speech and amplify your reach:


Even if your knees are shaking, maintaining eye contact can make you seem more confident which can make you feel more confident. That’s why Chris Anderson, Head of TED, says it should be the first priority when public speaking: “Great speakers find a way of making an early connection with their audience,” he writes. “It can be as simple as walking confidently on stage, looking around, making eye contact with two or three people, and smiling.” Making eye contact not only jumpstarts a connection with your audience but, when maintained, it makes you and your message more memorable.


What happens to your breath when you’re nervous, unprepared or both? It becomes shallow and many of us experience shortness of breath or “air hunger”. Do you begin speaking at full capacity, or do you exhale that strength and support before speaking? Practice square breathing ahead of time so you can speak with a fully supported voice when stakes are high.  Not breathing deeply leads to habits we’re all guilty of (men too!)—vocal fry, uptalk and low volume to name a few. Slow, deep breathing also stimulates the parasympathetic reaction—which can have the effect of calming you down. Find more tips on deep breathing in our #BEprepared video series here.


A 2010 study in the journal Psychological Science notes that “women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior,” so they may be more likely to apologize. This is not a female problem since men are guilty of it too, but it does stem from a lack of confidence and a lack of practice.

The first step to UNapolozing yourself is awareness. Many of us apologize all the time and do not even hear it. You don’t have to use the words “I’m sorry” to apologize—though plenty of us do. Filler-phrases like “kind of”, “just” and “I think” undermine our authority when used unintentionally. We physically make ourselves small and call our thoughts, ideas and feelings into question before they even leave our mouths.

So go ahead. Take up more space. Be heard and understood. Practice the art of public speaking. Communicate consciously. Try saying things affirmatively and with conviction. Download Just Not Sorry, a Gmail plugin that alerts you when you’ve undermined your authority in an email. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to be an outside eye as you develop your communication and presentation skills. Develop systems together, designed for your voices. Hire a public speaking trainer. Be kind to yourself first and foremost. If these behaviors stem from how hard we are on ourselves already, let’s not add to it! Overdo it at first and notice how the world around you starts to follow your lead. If it doesn’t feel exciting and scary, then maybe you’re not going far enough.

UNapologize yourself this Tuesday, September 20th. We’re co-hosting a Twitter chat with New York Women in Communications, Inc. about how too many of us apologize way too often. Follow @BespokenNY and #nywiciChat for tips!



FOX_0187Inspired to help people own their voice and be heard, Bespoken was founded in 2014 by Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller. Friends who met in acting school a decade before, Leah and Jackie channel years of professional theater experience into developing techniques to help people speak their story with power and precision.

UNapologize: Twitter Chat with NY Women in Communications

UNapologize: Twitter Chat with NY Women in Communications

On Tuesday 9/20 at 12 pm EST Bespoken is co-hosting a Twitter chat with New York Women in Communications Inc.(@NYWICI). Follow @BespokenNY and tune in for tips on how to #UNapologize yourself and speak with conviction and confidence! Click here for more info and remember to use the hashtag #nywiciChat!

#nywicichat guidelines:

  1. Follow @nywici from the Twitter account you plan to use for #nywicichat.
  2. Log in to Twitter a few minutes prior to the chat. Enter #nywicichat in the search box. TweetChat and TweetDeck are great twitter chat tools to use when following the chat.
  3. Make sure you use the #nywicichat hashtag in any of the tweets you are posting to the chat. The moderator will post questions in the form of Q1, Q2, etc. When responding to questions, include the answer number A1, A2, etc. This will help keep the chat focused.
  4. You may submit question for the chat by direct messaging your question to @nywici. We will do our best to get your question answered.
  5. Some chat etiquette: Introduce yourself, stay on topic, retweet (RT) what others say (if applicable) and thank the hosts at the end of the chat. Invite a friend to participate in the next chat.
  6. Communications, Public Relations and Marketing professionals participate in these chats – we encourage you to use this opportunity to network, ask questions and learn more about NYWICI.
  7. Transcripts of the chat will post shortly after the conclusion of the chat.
  8. We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to post comments and feedback using the #nywicichat hashtag throughout the week. We will respond to your comments. Remember to use #nywicichat for all chat related posts.


Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto was recently profiled for WENYC, the city initiative supporting the success of women entrepreneurs. Click here to read what she has to say about helping women speak up and be heard!


Leah Bonvissuto cofounded her business, Bespoken, with Jackie Miller two years ago, and has since given women entrepreneurs the tool set to own their voice in any circumstance and throughout their entrepreneurial journey. Bespoken consists of one-on-one and small group training sessions and workshops that help individuals become better communicators and public speakers. Bonvissuto believes “there are no bad speakers and good speakers, only bad experiences and good experiences.”

Her workshops and sessions are proactive and literally ‘on-your-feet.’ Each activity ends with participants presenting themselves and their business in the form of an introduction, a pitch, and so forth. Participants then receive in-the-moment feedback and tips such as physical techniques to overcome nerves. Bonvissuto attributes her background in theater and collaborative demeanor to her entrepreneurial journey and to what makes her business stand out from others. Leah Bonvissuto’s work seeks to end the confidence gap between men and women, and she believes “ownership of your voice is the only way true change can be instituted.”