According to a Partners in Leadership research, women are challenged more often than men to find their voice during a normal business meeting. Additionally, 75% of the talking during the meeting is usually done by men. One reason may be because of the way that women will be perceived if they speak up. The real fear of being perceived as ‘too pushy’ or ‘too aggressive’ may stop women from being truly honest with their opinions.
The real thoughts in our head may sound like the following:
“What if the other side gets angry or doesn’t like what I have to say?”
“What if the other party doesn’t agree? Will it invalidate my feelings and make me feel worse off for speaking up?”
“What if it makes me look dumb or silly?”
Our fears live inside our heads and most of the time, they are not true. I heard at a talk a few weeks ago that most women don’t speak up because they don’t think that their opinions matter. How many of us shy away from speaking our truth out of fear that others won’t agree with our opinions?
Here are 3 ways to combat your inner voices and to channel your intuitive power to speak up:
1.Take the time to journal.
Write out how you really feel, unedited and without judgment. I love the ‘Artist’s Way’ book to help me do a brain dump in the morning to get my thoughts and feelings out.
Sometimes I do the process with pen and paper, other times I type it out. The idea is to keep writing for 3 pages (or more if you’d like) about anything. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write” over and over, the idea is to keep flushing the thoughts in your head out, almost like a brain dump.
Write your thoughts and emotions as if no one is judging your words. Take a moment and see how that feels.
We are our own worst critic and sometimes, writing it out and releasing the tension can help move us forward and speak up!
2.Question your fear.
According to the research on “Erasing fear memories with extinction training,” new memories that create fear are unstable for a short time frame. During this time, if the fear memory is destabilized, it can successfully be conquered. As odd as it sounds, moving towards your fear can actually help to overcome it. The key is to keep taking action to breakthrough your old patterns of fear.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” — Jack Canfield
When the negative self-talk and doubt comes up, ask yourself the following questions:
“What is the purpose of this fear?”
“Is this really the truth?”
“Are you stopping yourself from speaking up due to a past negative experience?”
“Are you projecting a previous experience to your present situation?”
“Are there other ways of seeing this situation?”
3.Find a support network where you feel safe.
Share your challenges and struggles with a trusted support group. It may surprise you to find that others are also experiencing similar feelings of what you’re going through.
Finding a common bond can create empathy to let guards down and authentically share experiences. Perhaps it can be a small group where you share your challenges and get used to the idea of talking things through with a group. Maybe it’s one to one chat where you find a trusted colleague or friend to collaborate and brainstorm ideas. The key is to find what works for you.
The best news is that you likely know more than you think you know, so trust your intuition and know that you have unique ideas that others want to hear.
Here are a few exciting women in tech groups in Silicon Valley to check out:
From Witi’s website, their “mission is to empower women worldwide to achieve unimagined possibilities and transformations through technology, leadership and economic prosperity.”
Connection SV is led by Joanne Fedeyko, a super connector who is passionate about supporting women in tech. They can facilitate the right connections to grow your company, connect your startup to build relationships, launch your co-op program if you are a College/University, or build and connect an expat community.
From the Women Techmakers website, “Google’s Women Techmakers program provides visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.”
Which groups have worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!