I guess we all have heard that women need to sit at the table and speak up for their own sake, to look powerful, self-confident and in control. Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Sure, it would be wonderful if we could speak up without any filter, but it doesn’t work that way. I am sure you have experienced situations where you were asking yourself ‘’ Can I correct my boss when he makes a mistake?’’ ‘’ Can I challenge my colleague’s insensitive joke?’, ‘’Can I fight back with my colleague who is trying to take advantage?’’, ‘’ Can I ask for this raise?’’
What speaking up really means?
It is pushing one’s interests, expressing an opinion or making an ambitious ask.
There is something you need to know about behaviours. Each of us have a range of acceptable behaviours. And the more powerful you are, the more you can speak up and the more your ”doing great” zone expands. The question is how can we expand this zone?
And there is a consequence to the way we behave:
If we behave too weak: we get unnoticed
If we behave too strong: we get punished or rejected.
And what you need to know when you are asking yourself ‘’what is my range?’’ is that it is not fixed but pretty dynamic. It expands and narrows depending on the context.
What determines your range?
It is your power and it comes in different forms. If I have a very specific and scarce expertise companies are looking for, I will have a lot of power. On the other hand, if I have a quite common expertise where there is a lot of competition among candidates, my power will be low and there will not be so much room for negotiation.
Same if you are new to an organisation, your power is low.
So when we don’t speak up, we get unnoticed and when we speak up we get rejected or punished. A lot of women complain about the gender bias and that it is even worse for them. Nevertheless, women have the same need to speak up than men but we have more barriers to doing so. Actually, it is not a gender bias but a power bias. So, what a lot of people consider as a gender bias is actually a power bias in disguise.
How to expand your Power zone ?
I am going to share with you five powerful strategies I share in my coaching practice to help my clients who want to be more powerful and still authentic.
1. Believing in yourself
When you believe in yourself that you really know your skills, how you contribute to your company, your self-confidence raises. You are powerful in your own eyes. Therefore, you are powerful in other people’s eyes.
So when you feel powerful, you feel confident not fearful, you expand your range of acceptable behaviors and your power zone. When other perceive you as powerful, they grant you a wider range of acceptable behaviors and the right of speaking up.
2. Advocating for others
This one might be surprising but is very effective. And women are good at it. When we advocate for others, we are part of a team. We acknowledge other people’s talents, abilities and uniqueness. Moreover, we become more assertive when we advocate for others. And by doing this you expand your power range and you discover your own voice. People perceive you as a leader. The only thing that is crucial when advocating for others is your authenticity. It must be sincere and not a strategic tactic to look good.
3. ”Perspective taking” or showing empathy
Very often, people confuse empathy with sympathy. Empathy is the ability to see the world from another’s people perspective. It is the capacity to tune in to what someone else might be thinking and feeling about a situation – regardless of how that view might differ from your own perception. It is an extremely powerful interpersonal tool. When you make an empathetic statement, even in the midst of an otherwise tense encounter, you shift the balance. So, you maximize your ability to get what you want or need from the other party.
Why empathy is underutilized? Because there are many misconceptions about empathy that prohibit many people from turning it to their advantage. They confuse empathy with ‘’being nice’’, with making polite and pleasant statement.
Second, many people confuse empathy with sympathy. Basically, sympathy puts the speaker first, by putting into words our reactions to and feelings about another person’s situation. If someone shares with me his concerns, I will show sympathy by telling him ‘’ I understand how worried you are’’ or ‘’ Don’t worry, I feel the same but you will find a way to figure it out’’ or ‘’I know how it feels, I already experienced this kind of situation’’. If you show empathy, you will say’’ you must be feeling or thinking ….’’ Or ‘’ If I understand your point of view, you want to say or mean ….. right?’’
When you show empathy, you display these behaviors:
- Listening without judging
- Understanding or feeling another person’s perspective or emotion
When you show sympathy, you display these behaviors
- Giving a piece of advice
- Expressing an opinion
- Sharing your own experience
Third, some people believe that, by making an empathetic statement, they’ll seem to be agreeing with or approving of the other’s person’s position. But empathy is simply an acknowledgement that the other party holds that viewpoint. Of course, empathy requires to put emotions on hold which is something you can learn by developing emotional awareness.
When my daughter was 5 years old, getting her dressed up for school was a total nightmare. She would argue, wanting to put her favorite summer dress when it was 5 degrees outside. Most often it would end up as a battle. I was drained and exhausted. And then one day, I had a brilliant idea by giving her two options: this dress or pants or this ones? When you give people a choice, they feel valued, considered and are more willing to collaborate with you. Being flexible has been a big change in my life. Whatever the context is, I pay attention to offer different options to people in my personal and professional life.
5. Asking other people for advice
When we ask for advice, people like us because we flatter them. Moreover, we express humility on the right way ( I mean not making you small).
No one can succeed without allies. And what is particularly powerful with asking other people for advice is that it is an effective way to overcome our ‘’Self promotion barrier’’. When we don’t promote our accomplishments, we get unnoticed and if we do, we are not likeable. But if we ask for advice for one of our accomplishments, we are seen as competent but also be likeable.
When you ask for advice, people become more invested in your cause, they like you more, they are more committed to your success.
I hope this article will help you to navigate more powerful and assertive in the workplace. It is definitely my core mission to develop self-leadership which is the foundation of authentic leadership.
Leadership starts with you and your ability to know, value and magnify who you are is absolutely crucial. If you want to know more about my coaching program to consolidate the four foundations of your authentic self leadership, check my program ‘’A compass for your career’’.