Have you ever encountered a situation on the road which made you think, “People like her give female drivers a bad name”? How about in a professional environment – have you ever thought: “How did she get to this point in her career?” or “Wish she would get to the point!” If you are female voicing an opinion, have you noticed both males and females tune out? If you do take a stand and make some strong points possibly contradicting some others, you might even acquire a new title that rhymes with the word itch!
As ladies, how do we combat that? How do we make ourselves heard?
Frustrating as this can be, understanding the root helps. First of all, it is only in the past few decades that women have had any kind of a speaking platform. In the past, they were relegated to matters of the home and therefore not counted on for an opinion on social, political, religious or economic matters. Having a college degree was a rarity just 50 years ago and if women were not “educated” why would anyone in their right mind seek their council? We have certainly evolved – thank goodness. These days we have educated ladies in every sphere of life contributing their thoughts, ideas and opinions rather than relying on their legs or lashes for a second look.
Here are five ways to make a point effectively – like a Lady:
- Be informed: Know why you believe whatever you believe and be ready to defend it in a logical manner. That means you would’ve done your research and actually put some thought into the subject before you decide to share an opinion. If you haven’t, don’t opine. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: “It is better to be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” If you speak and have nothing substantive to say, you lose your credibility and cement the perception that you have nothing of value to contribute. Remember the goal is to have a point and more words do not mean a better point. Try to say something as succinctly as possible – get to the point without beating bout the bush.
- Mentally agree to have a conversation rather than a debate: This way, if the other person has a good point, you can acknowledge it without feeling like you’ve lost. Also, you have nothing to “prove” you just have something to say. When you lose the fight, (in you) you are able to focus on the content and delivery. Having a conversation allows you the option to think things over later and go back and say “you know I thought about what you were saying the other day and this is what I think…”
- Refrain from getting overly and overtly emotional: That means do not act out your emotions. By definition, a lady, acts with reserve. So keep your cool. In my case when I feel threatened face to face, I tend to freeze and withdraw – not a bad thing really – because it prevents me from “reacting” in a negative manner. Even if you are irritated by what someone has said, showing it solves nothing. I have actually found that if the other person is overtly emotional and you stay composed, you appear more credible and they appear rather foolish.
- Separate your thoughts and feelings: The words feelings and thoughts are not interchangeable. Actually, this is a pet peeve of mine but it is not relegated to women alone – men are just as guilty of using the word feeling to express a thought. Most people believe that women are overly emotional anyway – (not saying that’s right – just reality). Saying you “feel like” confirms the perception that you are introducing your feelings into a logical discussion. As a general rule of thumb if you have to add the words “like” or “that” to your “feeling” then it’s really a thought. For example: “I feel like you are not listening to all the reasons”. This is NOT a feeling – it’s a thought. If you can substitute the word think and the sentence still makes sense, then it’s not a feeling. For example: “I think you are not listening to all the reasons”. When speaking about feelings remember: they are adjectives. For example: “I feel happy” or “I feel ignored” or “I am afraid”. In a professional environment, people are generally interested in your thoughts NOT your feelings.
- Know when to disengage: Understand that each one is entitled to their own opinion and you do not have the responsibility to change anyone’s mind. You can win some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Take that at face value. You’re better off having convictions and being comfortable with them rather than pretending and “yes-ing” everyone to death; causing you to lose respect.
Ladies, we have come this far – saying nothing is NOT an option! Acing a point is.