Situation 34: Assertive language

Femsy is slowly but surely growing in her role. Her communication style though, differs greatly from the assertive style from her male peers and subordinates. Billy strongly suggests her to start every sentence with “I” (“I think”, “I believe”). In this way she will come across much more confident.

(Click on the pictures to see them in full size)

A great leader:

  • Has self-confidence, knows her worth and how much value she adds to the organization;
  • Presents her ideas and proposals to her colleagues in an assured and assertive manner using ‘strong’ language;
  • Sees herself as equal to her (male) colleagues.

How to best handle the situation:

There are some conflicting views about whether women should minimize the use of weak language; word such as ‘just’. A few years ago Ellen Petry Leanse, former exec at Google and Apple (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/just-say-ellen-petry-leanse) noticed that women use the word ‘just’ frequently in emails, conversations and emails. She felt that this was a ‘permission’ word that put the other party in a position of authority and control. Shane Ferro, writing in Business Insider (http://tinyurl.com/zkjutoy), disputes Leanses’s claims saying that women should not have to self-regulate everything that they are saying since this in itself undermines their confidence.

When women try to act more like their male counterparts and use strong language they are often viewed negatively. Therefore, it is important to find your own, unique voice and style that reflects who you are and how you want to be seen. If you are happy to be seen as hard and aggressive, that’s fine. If you want to have a different reputation, look for a way to get your message across in an assertive, yet feminine way.

Believe in yourself, you are in your position because your colleagues and seniors think that you are capable and have a valid perspective. Speak out with authority on topics where you have a viewpoint and something to contribute.

Think about how you want to come across to other participants; what impression do you want to make? What do you want them to say and think about you? Ensure that you wear outfits that make you feel good and confident whilst respecting the dress code.

 Learning suggestions:

  • Think about what you want your reputation to be. What behaviours will reinforce this brand? Make sure that you look and act the part. For example, if you want to be promoted, take actions that demonstrate that you are capable of operating at that level and people will start visualizing you there;
  • Set yourself a goal to be more assertive in meetings. Enlist the help of a trusted colleague who can give you feedback on how you came across and what impact you had on the other attendees. Take this feedback on board and try to improve your interactions in future;
  • Listen attentively to how others put their ideas across. What language do they use? What emotion do they convey; do they remain calm and composed? Do they get angry? Do they emphasize important points? Analyse what techniques are effective in which scenarios and try to incorporate them into your own communication style;
  • Remember these following tips:
  • Use the word ‘I’ so that you retain control;
  • Maintain eye contact;
  • Have a good posture;
  • Express body language by using gestures that convey warmth and openness;
  • Be clear. Make short statements that are to the point and unambiguous;
  • Learn to be comfortable with silence and pauses. This can emphasize the point you are making and also give people time to think and digest what you are saying;
  • Use appropriate language i.e. no swearing and don’t be rude!
  • If you feel strong emotions welling up (for example, tears or anger) take some deep breaths to give you time to compose yourself;
  • Be aware of your voice i.e. not too soft or too loud;
  • Take responsibility for yourself.
  • When you find yourself doubting your ability, remember that ability grows with experience and effort. In other words: “The will must be stronger than the skill” (Sheryl Sandberg);
  • In the Femspiration section please have a look at the following and others:

Femchallenge:

How many of the tips above do you follow? Identify areas and situations where you can increase your assertiveness.

 Femcommunity tips: 

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

Find more on our website Femflection.com

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