Picture this. You walk into a boardroom. You are one of the first few people to arrive. You grab a seat. Where do you sit?
As more people arrive, one by one they take up their positions. Look around that room. Men and women take their seats. What do you notice?
I was inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk again today (thank you to my facebook friend, Lori Collerman, who reposted it). Before I say anything, I’ll be very clear. I’m not interested in the “us versus them” war between men and women. What I AM interested in, is people who recognize the challenges they personally face and grow into the best versions of themselves to overcome those challenges. THAT is what today’s article is about … and really, this entire blog and upcoming book.
“Sit at the table”… It’s very uncomfortable at first. Both men and women size you up. When you are the first to arrive, others will take up their seat based on how they perceive you … and then they’ll continue to size up whether you belong in the seat you took. When you are one of the last to arrive, so you can slide into whatever seat is available, you face a sea of eyes that quickly take you in and rate your value in the room.
It’s unconscious. It’s instinctive. It’s life.
Is it right? Is it fair? That doesn’t matter. What matters is how you continue to show up in everything you say and do from that moment forward.
Do you shrink in your chair, cross your legs, fold your hands together or grip your notebook and pen for security? Do you breathe … seriously! Check your pulse! If you are all folded up and small, you are not breathing properly. The deeper you breathe, the more equipped your brain will be to handle the room ahead. You are self-sabotaging!
Look at the men. They sit down, expand in their chairs, breathe and survey the room as if to say “Yeah, this is my spot.” Then they look for a chance to make a comment that shows they are not nervous; they belong there.
Women who do this might be met with shock from men and glares from women, because it’s not natural. I’m not saying you should imitate men. I’m saying you shouldn’t instinctively shrink.
The same goes for the stage. Here’s how I see women shrink on stage. Even Sheryl did a bit of this in her speech:
- use weak, apologetic language
- keep arms unnaturally close to the body
- do a “cutsie” walk to tell others “I’m not intimidating. I am cute! You should love me!”
- non-committal body language that says “You don’t have to agree with what I’m saying. It’s just a suggestion. Please don’t hate me! I’m really a good person!”
I could carry on, but you get the idea. When you shrink, you say to the world “My opinions don’t matter.”
Here’s my challenge to you:
- Examine your opinions. Know why you have them and be clear about your motivations behind them.
- Value yourself, not as a woman who wants to influence others, but as a human being who wants to make life and/or work better for others.
- Be honest. Do not put on a persona. Do not pretend your opinions don’t matter. Do not sacrifice truth for likeability. Others may not agree with you, but if everyone agreed all the time, no one would be leading.
This post was a little long … I have so much more I could say. I look forward to your comments! Please share this article! Let’s talk!