In a previous post, I mentioned a book, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, that helped me get my voice heard and my actions respected. A reader asked me what I did exactly to “stand out and not be ignored anymore?” Since it has been eight years since I read the book, I could not remember all the improvements I made. But I do remember those I worked extra hard on (and still relapse to once in a while). So I retook the test to see if there is any new “nice-girl” behaviors that I need to pay attention to. In this post, I will share my personal case of “nice-girl” mistakes from eight years ago and my recent test results. My goal is to show you that we are all human and no one is perfect. But with some work, we can get better and get ahead.
There are seven areas Lois categories as “nice girl” behaviors – weakness in knowing how to (1) play, (2) act, (3) think, (4) market, (5) look, (6) sound and (7) respond. The last was what I scored the lowest on in my recent test. Ok, ready?
“Nice Girls” Eight Years Ago
1. Needing Permission
Parents teach kids to ask for permission. Somewhere on the growing-up curve, men learn to stop asking for permission while women don’t. I am not saying that all women are stuck, but more women than men are. As Lois mentioned, “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than approval”. As for me, I started asking this question when I had the urge to seek permission, “if I go ahead with my action without my boss’ approval, will he lose his reputation or will someone get hurt?” If the answer was “no” to both, I would go ahead and do it. If things turned out bad, I stepped up and apologized. This showed that I could make judgments on my own and take responsibility for good and bad consequences.
2. Using too many words
I used to talk with a lot of qualifying words (e.g. possibly, maybe, somehow, wondering, etc.) before getting to my point. Looking back, I realized that it was difficult for others to hear my points, which were often lost mid-way. So, I started eliminating all the unnecessary words, and cut to the chase. When I have a request nowadays, I “call to action,” meaning that I state clearly what I want someone to do. The result – I started receiving more direct response more quickly. My productivity went up as a result of less confusion, hence less back-and-forth clarification.
With that said, you don’t want to sound like a robot and come across as all-about-you. Practice listening. Ask someone about his/her day. If they talk about their family or an event in life, take note and follow up on that in your next exchange (my dentist does that too). It may take you an extra three minutes to cut to the chase, but it will get you further than you can imagine.
3. Being the Last to Speak
This one was a no brainer – I stopped being the last one to voice myself in a group setting. If you are not comfortable commenting or asking questions, it may be easier to begin with agreeing with another person’s point (that is if you actually agree with him/her).
4. Too helpful with small things
By small things, I mean tasks such as photocopying or volunteering to mop the floors. In other words, they are tasks typically associated with a woman’s role (unfortunately). I used to clean all the nasty chemical wastes in a common hood area and no one would acknowledge that when I mentioned it. But once that task was assigned to a guy, he got credit for doing that. The world is not fair, and I accept it. So, I left the small-thing credits to the guys since they would get noticed for their effort. I focused on helping with decision-making and planning related tasks. It’s a win-win.
“Nice Girls” Now
According to my latest test results, the weaknesses below are behaviors and a mindset I need to improve. I’ve included Lois’ suggestions for tweaking them. At a closer look, they are very much linked to what my parents hammered into my head since I was young – be humble, be patient, and care for others as the oldest child.
1. Believing Others Know More Than You
- Before assuming someone knows more than you, ask a few probing questions to determine his or her expertise: “Why do you recommend that?” or “How do you know that?”
- Do NOT ask a question to which you know the answer. It can diminish your stature.
- If something doesn’t sound of feel right, buy time to think.
2. Denying Your Power
- Redefine power by considering the ways in which you have more control than you allow for yourself.
- Program how you think about power e.g. “I am as powerful as I choose to be.”
- When someone suggests you are powerful, accept that compliment gracefully even if you don’t feel it at the moment.
3. Exhibiting too much patience
- When you are told to be more patient, ask the person to give you an idea of when you should revisit the matter.
- If you are asked to wait longer than you think is needed, ask, “Why so long?” There may be a legitimate reason. If there isn’t, you can explore other options.
4. Putting the Needs of Others Before Your Own
- Between work and home, stop for 20 minutes and do something for yourself.
- Avoid giving in just because it’s easier or you don’t want to make waves.
- Tell yourself it’s not selfish to have your needs met even though in might inconvenience others.
Do any of these sounds familiar to you? I hope that by pointing out my own weaknesses, I will empower you to explore from within and advance outward. In closing, I will leave you with Katy Perry’s Firework. Share your experience with me in your comments. I’d love to hear you thoughts. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or ask me questions about a specific area of my experience. Until next post, keep on shining!