I wrote in What Every Woman Needs To Know about an ex colleague who managed to make herself almost invisible. All without the aid of magic.
Making ourselves invisible is a natural consequence of feeling a lack of confidence. Confidence shows through in your body language, (as does arrogance, impatience, and a myriad of other things!) Women feeling a lack of confidence do not want to draw attention to themselves and some get very good at it! (Take a look at Women’s Confidence, where is it? if this is of particular interest to you)
Just what is star quality? Try and think of someone you know who has star quality, a presence. Often we say it’s something intangible but you can break it down; it helps if you have an example in mind. Think about a woman you admire, preferably in your field and imagine her now, walking confidently into a meeting. What does she do? And as importantly, see in your mind’s eye, what doesn’t she do?
Making an Entrance
When I’m talking about assertiveness to groups I often run through the following little drama of entering the room. First the unassertive entrance.
I peer through the pane of glass in the door and then wait a second or two. I open it slightly and then, using the smallest space possible, I squeeze myself in through the gap. With a technique worth of the SAS or a Navy Seal I hug the outside wall until I eventually come to my place where, making myself as small as possible, I slide into my seat muttering a barely heard apology for a transgression no one knows I’ve committed! I’m early so only about 3 people have witnessed my entrance and I’m able to choose the most unobtrusive seat I can!
There is a fine line between the arrogant, nay even rude entrance and the assertive, confident one.
The Arrogant Entry goes something like this – my voice is heard first outside in the corridor, loudly telling anyone in earshot that Oh Gawd, I’m 20 minutes late for yet another meeting so gotta dash darling, must do lunch, mwah ,mwah!
By now everyone is alerted to my entry so eyes are on the door which I burst open noisily and enter the room, dragging my huge bag behind me and making for the farthermost seat, inconveniencing any number of people who have to move their chairs, where I sit noisily down in my chair, tell everyone how utterly up to my eyes in important work I am, faff about getting a coffee, ask the chair which agenda item we’re on! (I haven’t had to use my imagination for this little scenario at all – seen it many times as I bet so have you). Everyone knows I have arrived and equally everyone is annoyed with me; but they do notice me and I have totally eclipsed the wee mouse hiding somewhere in the room. She has fallen into my shadow immediately and is guaranteed not to speak at all now.
The Assertive Entry. The assertive woman is probably not late because she values her own time, and respects the time of others. She will probably arrive just a moment or two before the meeting starts giving her time to settle, arrange her notes, exchange a word or two, network etc. She will open the doors plenty wide enough to walk through, walk in, look around the room smiling at colleagues she knows, and stride confidently towards her seat. She may sit near the most influential person in the room (assuming she’s not it) as she knows that most eyes will be turned that way, allowing her to take the floor more easily than poor wee mouse who is tucked away at a corner, hidden by Gerald from accounts who takes up an enormous amount of space with his electronic note book AND lap top, spreadsheets and pile of handouts for everyone present. And he’s leaning forwards, arms on the table so mouse would have to stand to be seen and there’s no danger of that!
Assertive woman does not invade other’s space but she takes up enough to be comfortable. She pushes her chair back a little, leans forward with her arms on the table and makes eye contact around the room. She will speak early on in the meeting, possibly standing to do so, and she will not allow herself to be inappropriately interrupted by the men because she is prepared for this eventuality, (she might even have read my post on Why Can’t Women Speak their Minds in the Boardroom? or Men and Women Talk Differently)
She has a presence borne out of confidence in herself.
Do you recognise anyone here? I confess in my time I’ve possibly done all three! But I like to think as I grew in experience and confidence that assertiveness woman was my default operating mode. How about you?
Are you interested in a course for professional women? Check out Speak Up, running late autumn.
Photo Credit: Marinela Prodan
Posted on August 10th, 2011 by Jane