Today I want to write about speaking up for what you want. As women SO many of us struggle with this. We fear rejection, we look for approval, and we try and keep the peace, sometimes because of low self-worth but also because as women, we’re relationally oriented.
But there’s another important reason too – as girls, most of us did not learn the skills we need to stand up and ask for what we need.
I’ve heard again and again clients tell me that growing up, they were reminded to “be a good girl” in a sibling fight or that they were rewarded with nods of parental approval for being so. They tell me that their brothers were encouraged to participate in sports where aggression was accepted, while they pursued quieter activities like art or dance.
I myself remember my over-protective father (who had no sisters of his own and me as the only daughter), remind my brothers constantly to be gentle with me, to fight my battles, to speak up for me when I struggled.
Despite their best intentions, parents, and those who influenced our earlier years, did not always help us develop the key skills we need in today’s world where as women, we’re an integral part of the workforce. We’re as competent in the skills needed, we’re passionate about making a difference, and we have the strengths and know-how to do so.
If we spoke up more often.
Because the reality is that we’re called to take part in conversations all the time, some critical, some difficult. Whether it’s to set boundaries, negotiate a raise, speak up for what we believe in, or have a difficult conversation with our partner, adolescent or employee.
And when we don’t know how to do so effectively, we shove things under the carpet, we put up with the pain or the status-quo, we let our best ideas be owned by others and watch them take credit for them, and soon enough we become unhappy and disengaged, and increasing lose confidence in our ability to make change happen.
So here’s the tip that can help you speak up in a way that’s authentic and aligned with your true nature: Get clear on WHY you want to do so.
This means being clear about the need your voice addresses. Ask yourself:
- Who is affected by you not talking about it
- What difference will happen when you do
- What will happen if you don’t
This strategy works so well for women because we’re relational by nature. We take on more and pursue for longer when we do things for others who need our help. Its part of our maternal instincts. And we find the inner strength to overcome our fears of rejection when we’re aligned with something larger than ourselves.
I remember a client of mine grew up with an alcoholic mother who was very unpredictable in her reactions. My client learnt to stay quiet when verbally abused by her mother so she maintained the peace as best she could. But when her mother did the same to her younger brother, she instantly would find the courage to take a stand and speak up for him.
So be clear on WHY you need to speak up, and the rest will be a much smoother ride.
Back to you – are there times you struggle with making your voice heard? When does it happen, and how do you react/feel as a result?