Many women are far too polite (in business) and so was IFeb 15, 2023
Many women are too polite in business.
In fact - often in other areas of their life too.
And if you're happen to be a man and felt this little pang when you read the headline this might be something for you too...and I invite you to read on.
Politeness is great - unless it becomes detrimental to managing your energy, taking your space or speaking up for yourself.
I'm not even British (if you are, you know what I'm talking about ;-)) and still was this woman.
How it shows up
And it showed up in a number of ways:
- I was hesitant to say NO when a colleague or client asked me for a favour - even worse when my bosses wanted something - even if it was 5 minutes before I had planned to leave!
- I grudgingly accepted when people interrupted me at meetings or ate into my time
- Even in my current job, in the beginning, I allowed my clients to overstep the agreed time
The feeling I was left with was one of overwhelm when not saying no, and becoming rather resentful towards colleagues who took my space, and eventually towards myself, beating myself up as to why I would allow this to happen.
Double whammy. Great.
A situation I didn't like AND being unkind to myself. I knew instinctively that it was on ME to shift things, not on other people to change their behaviour first.
Expecting the latter would literally be handing all power about my situation over to others or the situation/circumstances. At least I knew that this was not the way forward.
Why is it so hard to change?
So - why is it so damn hard to change that then if I realized that it was going on?
Well, there is a huge difference between "understanding" or grasping a concept and living or implementing it.
This is where I had a clear disconnect between brain and heart - or logic and emotions. Note: both are relevant ;-)
I dug a bit and got my partly unflattering) answers:
1. On the surface (logic) I believed it was the right thing to do. Be kind, be polite, help others, and give them space.
This is how I grew up. And I did not want to be considered a "bitch" - which is still the label assertive women get in some places. Not into their face of course.
Don't get me wrong: Generally being polite is a nice thing to do. - unless it falls out of balance and starts being harmful to my energy or prevents me from taking my place and space. Others often don't even realize that they interrupt people or put too many demands on them unless we tell them….which might lead to the next answer.
2. The level underneath (emotions): I want to be liked AND prove to others that I can do it all. Alternatively proving it to myself. Ouch.
For me, this was a topic that I realized was underneath all my ambition to climb the corporate ladder (which I did for many years) and originated from a LONG time ago when an important person in my life labelled me for something else than my intelligence.
If I say no or insist on my space others could react annoyed and not like me. Or believe I'm not capable to manage a high workload. And yes -this might happen.
Funnily enough, I often experienced the opposite - being met with more respect - when I started standing up and speaking up for myself. A typical situation of being held back by fears of what might happen…and it hardly ever does. And if it does - I can deal with it t
I'm still kind.
Well, most of the time.
I'm also speaking up for myself. Well, most of the time. ;-)
And I say no when I don't have the capacity. Most of the time.
Am I still scared that I won't be liked? Not very often.
I allow myself to be me and put myself and my energy first. And have learned to take up space. The latter still feels a bit uncomfortable in my body sometimes, as it stores old and well-trained patterns on many levels.
And quite honestly, if I meet people who won't accept a no or me taking up space are probably not the ones I'd like to surround myself with. Kind of a natural selection…even if it hurts a bit sometimes.