I’ve just read yet another article telling women how to gain confidence.
- Look the part
- Speak out
- Take your place in meetings……………
All brilliant advice, but does the writer really think we don’t know? That we don’t go away from each silent meeting knowing that we should have said more? Or that we don’t feel angry when men put forward our ideas as if their own?
Great advice – but not always so easy to do. I’m quite sure the advice comes from good heart – it’s tough to see so many women giving up on their potential. And women tend to pull together so want to help each other. Problem is, this is not a simple issue. Many complex factors are overlapping to lead to the present form of behaviour and the only way through is by understanding. Good advice may occasionally spark understanding, but mostly it’s great questioning and a challenging, listening ear that will add most value.
The million dollar question – why do we behave as we do?
We need to find out what we gain from being the back stop of a meeting, supporting others to shine or letting a colleague steal our thunder. It has to be giving us something or we wouldn’t do it. And until we see the behaviour for what it is, the alternative will always feel like more of a risk.
For Jean, taking a back seat has kept her out of trouble and dleivered approval. Her parents were pleased that she didn’t make a fuss. They appreciated her reliability and support, knowing they could be sure what to expect of her in any moment. She never liked the restriction, but she did like the affirmation that went with it. ‘ You can always rely on Jean – you need never worry when she’s around.’
At work, being ‘edgy’ was rewarded. A fast moving business required fresh ideas, immediate action and proactivity. Jean had the ability to do them all; whether she had the Will to change her style and risk losing the affirmation was another question. Being edgy pays off sometimes and fails many others. Jean wasn’t used to failing in her supportive role and she didn’t want to.
The outcome? She stayed with the tried and tested. Taking a back seat made Jean feel safe. It also made her irritated, but not irritated enough to risk upsetting someone – yet.
So telling her to ‘just speak out more’ is pointless.
It’s good advice, but not advice she is likely to follow. She has to explore a more fundamental issue and be ready to undertake a significant change of lifestyle and belief. Can she do it? Absolutely. Is telling her just to get on with it helpful? Not really – it just gives her something else to feel bad about, when she fails.
So let’s step back from giving advice.
Instead let’s listen to what is going on and encourage each other to go a bit deeper in order to understand. Because once we understand what is happening, then we have choice. And when we can choose from an informed place, then we’re in with a very real chance of change.