Hey, Women, Stop Making Yourselves Small

By LB Adams

recently got to fulfill one of my big, giant life goals and give a TEDx talk. It was one of the most exciting, challenging and dangerous things I’ve ever done, and I’ve been scuba diving with sharks. Danger is my middle name.

Actually, it’s not, it’s Beth, but I still know from danger. Getting up on the TEDx Charleston stage and being authentic and vulnerable was brave. What if no one cared about my talk? What if what I was saying didn’t resonate with anyone? What if I forgot my own name? Thankfully, they did and it did, and I didn’t.

My family and I came to Charleston in 2012 to kickstart a new phase in our lives. A couple of years later, I jumped into entrepreneurism with both feet. I run a soft skills training company, and we’ve had the privilege to work with a huge range of people, companies and industries. I can tell you, we’ve seen some stuff!

Through the years, throughout all of the classes and workshops and speaking events, I’ve found that women and men speak very differently. They especially speak very differently about themselves. So while the following tips are applicable to everyone, they are very often more applicable to women. Yeah, girl, I’m lookin’ at you.

5 Soft Skills Tips To Make You Better At Everything

1. Own the space. Whenever, wherever you’re speaking, own the space like it was real estate you purchased. ‘Cause it is. Stop making yourself small. If you’re adding your idea at a meeting, sit up and speak up. If you’re standing and presenting, understand that the floor is literally and figuratively yours. For that time, you own it.

2. Step out from behind. Whatever you’ve put in front of you—your desk, a chair, a table, step out from behind it when you really want to communicate with someone. Don’t put barriers, including your phone, between you and others. I was recently at an event where businesswoman and philantropist Anita Zucker was speaking. Rather than stand behind the podium, she moved the mic and stood to the side of the podium so that all of her was communicating with all of us. That act in itself is a powerful conversation.

3. Allow vulnerability. Being vulnerable is a strange and scary thing. It’s almost an oxymoron – being vulnerable, sharing yourself or doing something new and uncomfortable is actually an act of bravery. Courage is predicated on vulnerability. Understand that failure will happen and allow yourself to move forward anyway. It doesn’t necessarily have to include diving with sharks. Also, see everything ever written by Brené Brown to better understand the life-altering truth of vulnerability.

4. Resist the “give and take back.” This occurs when someone voices something positive about themselves or their accomplishments and immediately follows it with something negative. For example: “I just got promoted to vice president! It’s not a huge pay raise though.” Here’s another: “I’ve won several sales awards. They’re local, not regional.” This is a “skill” women have perfected in our quest to not seem “arrogant” or too full of ourselves. It’s another way to make yourself small, and it must be stopped. This brings us to the last, best advice.

5. Speak well about yourself. Why is this so damn difficult for some people (women)? You can learn this skill. Practice saying what you’re good at or what skills you posses. Do it out loud! Write them down. Write them again and add to the list. Have conversations with your friends about your rock star-ness. It is imperative that we have the ability to factually, adamantly and steadfastly speak well about ourselves.

I believe strongly in the power of words. We humans had to invent a multitude of languages to communicate because grunting and gestures weren’t doing the job. Words are integral to our forward motion. By being more aware of the words you use, how and when you use them, you can create positive change and have a tremendous impact on the world.

LB Adams is the founder of Practical Dramatics. Her company provides spectacular training events that utilize theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.