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Speak up! Speak out!

October 17, 2013 0 Comments

Speak up! Speak out!Many of  my women clients and friends have told me that they’re fine speaking one on one, but put them in a group, and they get tongue tied.

They hesitate to express a point or ask a question, much less to challenge or to lead. They feel like they need to be drawn out, or better, left alone. Perish the thought that we sound foolish or deficient in some way!

Of course, this isn’t every woman, and all men are not exempt. But many women struggle with this inner conflict.

I have also heard women who work in predominantly male environments say that even when they do speak up, often their contribution will not be heard. Or it will be interrupted, confiscated or paraphrased as if their own words were not enough.

I have personally witnessed this a number of times. The most pronounced (no pun intended) was when a very astute female colleague introduced an idea in a group of about twenty-five. The format was “group think” and true to form, she called out her idea, just as others had done before her. She was the first woman to call out. It was as if she hadn’t made a sound, although, she was clearly audible… at least to me. She waited and repeated her really great idea again. Same thing happened. Nobody responded. The facilitator didn’t seem to hear her. She persisted a few more times. Five, to be exact.  Nothing. The back and forth of male voices ensued until one man blurted out the woman’s idea word for word. You’ll never guess what happened.

Yup. He was heard.

Was the slight intentional? Probably not.

As women, we can take these things to heart, as if we’re being rejected or denigrated. Or we see them as evidence that maybe what we have to say doesn’t have any value after all.

So, rather than risk pain or humiliation, many of us opt for the safe way out. Be quiet. Be still. Be cautious. Or avoid the situation altogether.

Now, in my little story, it would have been very nice if the man had credited the woman with the thought. He didn’t. And even that may not have been intentional. Many of our biases and tendencies, as human beings, are wired-in as automatic responses, so we don’t have to waste energy thinking about every little thing we do. But, if we actually knew our biases, we might not subscribe to all of them. And this bias toward the male voice, in particular circumstances, is wired-in, with all its association to authority, security, and strength.

So, women, the challenge is to speak up and speak out not only in the face of our self-doubts and desires to be invited in, but also in the face of the limiting roles and expectations (or lack thereof) that continue to persist. Thank goodness, or consciousness, that these roles are getting more pliable as we look at them and question them.

Meanwhile, it’s time to be a pioneer. Let’s forge ahead together by considering these questions:

How do you hold yourself back?  What is one small step you can take to step up and step out?

I would love to hear from you. Please, share your thoughts and comments in the section below.


© 2013 Naaz Hosseini. All Rights Reserved. Copying or reposting this content without written permission is strictly prohibited

About the Author:

Naaz Hosseini

Naaz Hosseini is a communication coach and voice empowerment coach. She developed Powerful Presence™ coaching to help corporate and entrepreneurial women step into their vocal power to command the attention and respect they deserve. As a NYS Licensed Psychoanalyst and Qualified Gestalt Therapist, she supervises and trains mental health counselors at Teachers College Columbia University and therapists at the Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy and Training. She served as visiting faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero Summer Institute for ten years where Howard Gardner has said, “With enthusiasm, I recommend Naaz Hosseini, a pioneer in using the voice and the body for understanding.”

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