This month I’m thinking about all those stories we tell ourselves that get us worked up and hold us back. It’s those pesky voices our heads! Sometimes they nag, “Do I dare say no?”, while other times they whisper, “Do I speak up or keep quiet? What will they think if I’m wrong?”
I have many conversations with women who confide that their self-talk is not productive. This month’s Small Group Coaching Circle (October 27th) tackles the topic of saying “No” comfortably. Register here, as spots are limited. Below, the featured article is about why we don’t (and how we can) speak up in meetings.
P.S. I’d like to call your attention to a new feature on my website. You can now search for articles I’ve written by topic! Click here and browse topics from the tag cloud on the right. Each tag will provide you with a list of articles related to your desired topic. Let me know how it works for you.
Am I Talking Too Much? Or Too Little?
We often hear remarks about how much women talk. Well, I have news for you. A recent study published in Scientific American found that men and women talk about the same number of words each day! I personally don’t think it’s the amount of words that can present challenges, but rather what was found in the study “Gender Differences in Language Use” by Newman, Groom, Handelman and Pennebaker. They found that while women use more words on a particular topic, men get more words “in the room” in business meetings. This may be why I hear so many women complain about a lack of confidence speaking up in meetings.
It’s not the number of words, it’s the “how” we use them and “where” they get heard.
Many women struggle with this common conundrum: “Am I talking too much? I don’t want to take up too much air time and inconvenience others. But if I don’t speak up, I won’t be noticed.”
In addition to this counterproductive inner monologue, there are three things that I think hold us back from speaking up.
We don’t want to interrupt. This is a common cultural and gender difference between men and women. In the US business culture where men are in the majority, interrupting (to a point) is accepted. If a woman is waiting for quiet space to interject, she’ll sit there silently the entire meeting.
We feel like we need to know everything before we speak. It’s that perfectionist trap. We worry that someone might ask that one obscure question that we don’t know the answer to. Remember, the others don’t know everything either. You just need to know enough to get your idea out there.
We don’t want to be like that obnoxious person who dominates the meeting. No, we don’t have to be obnoxious, but we must put our voices in the room.
Here are three tips I use to combat my own self-doubt.
Say something in every meeting. You’ve got a lot to contribute! Work to put at least one thing out there.
Don’t wait for silence. Put your voice in right on the heels of someone else. You may not feel comfortable interrupting, but don’t wait for seconds of silence, either. It won’t come.
Get comfortable with ambiguity. There are lots of answers for that obscure question. Try “That’s not something I considered. If we think it’s important, I’ll look into it.” or “That’s interesting. Let me think about it.” You don’t need to have precision in most answers, just accuracy and the intent to look into it further at a later point if necessary. If it’s an obscure question to you, it probably is to the others in the room.
So don’t let waiting for the right time, worry about talking too much or fear that you don’t have it just right keep you from sharing your big idea at your next meeting. It may be uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you will overcome your own doubts and the cultural gender gaps to speak up and shine in your workplace.
Leading Into the Future
A one-day leadership development opportunity presented by CAPAW on November 4 in Houston. In addition to great speakers, there will be a speed coaching event, in which Susan will be one of the coaches. For info and to register here.
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide one-on-one executive coaching, seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling professional lives. Visit our newly redesigned website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com
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The next topic in Susan’s Fall Small Group Coaching Circle is “Saying No Without Guilt” (October 27). Experience professional coaching with up to eight women on a similar journey. Click here to register or email Susan for more info.
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