I am a terrible public speaker.
You don’t seem confident enough to be a CEO.
Women lack confidence to succeed on their own
Some of the all too common phrase heard all too often and used to label women.
Among many other challenges, one of the biggest challenge women face in professional situations is the perception or tag of being ‘under confident’.
This label is quite often used to question your capabilities to rise in senior positions or launch a business independently. This label gets attached to the way you are seen and can seriously hamper growth opportunities and the way business community ‘sees’ you.
Today we try to go beyond this myth of “under confident woman” with our expert Nima Abu Wardeh.
Nima Abu Wardeh is an award winning former BBC World presenter, broadcaster and a highly sought after trainer for the corporate C-suite and global events. She is Founder of S.H.E. Strategy (SHE equals to Seen. Heard. Empowered). Nima is also the Founder of Raise Your Profile incubator, an action led safe space where she coaches and trains women to raise their profile & showcase their brilliance.
Nima says: “A generic statement like – she lacks confidence is under confident- is a major obstacle for women. This puts the onus on her to prove a change something that’s not defined & is a vague judgement passed on her.
This isn’t what I call feedback – because it doesn’t give the person receiving it anything to work with, or work towards. It’s vague, subjective, and frankly useless, unless specific things are drilled down to and defined – things that the woman can work towards. Ideally with a practical ‘how do I do it’ toolbox so she can get stuck in. Statements like ‘lacks confidence’ condemn women, are used against women, and are vague. Such feedback is not specific or conducive to improvement or development to your highest potential.”
Time to rip off the labels
Generic commentary about a person’s skills, speaking, and style of delivery are neither helpful nor objective. Such sweeping statements feed in stereotypes and do not help women at all, if that was the intent of the decision makers saying it.
It is time to say it aloud that such feedback is not specific or conducive to improvement and hence the person giving the feedback must present a more objective and fair critique.
Work on specifics
Getting these labels torn in bite size pieces of feedback is essential to make progress.
Perhaps the real challenge is that your message does not come across clear.
This is good feedback. It gives you a clear direction so you need to get better in delivering the wisdom you hold in yourself. You can manage this challenge by learning to become more aware of your body language, your speaking, your ability to speak clearly in front of an audience without fidgeting etc.
IN short you have identified the problem and you have the toolbox to solve it.
What to say to all those who label you “Under Confident”
‘Thank you for your feedback. What I request is that you break it down for me. Help me see what traits or qualities of confidence you do not see in me’.
This question or request is genuine, polite and professional and it serves dual purpose. Try this next time you hear someone making a sweeping statement about women or you. It stops the other person in track and forces them to think of how to substantiate their statement.
Benefit one – If it is said more as a personal opinion about women in general then it gives them an opportunity to apologize and learn for future.
Benefit two – if this is said by someone who really wants you to become better they might give you some real feedback that you can use to improve.
What to say to yourself if you consistently label yourself “Under Confident”
The best thing will be to start by digging in to your beliefs systems. Perhaps you have heard it so many times that you have started to doubt yourself.
Tip 1 Stop saying I am under confident. The words we use to describe ourselves become our destiny.
Tip 2 It is time to look at what exactly are these limitations. And once you have identified the skill gaps, you will be in a much better and empowered situation to develop the skills.
Nima recommends her model of managing ‘under confident’ label.
Three C’s: the building blocks.
So what is ‘not enough credibility? It could be that you are spending all your energy proving your credibility & that you deserve your job or title, instead of getting on and being what you are brilliant at. It could be that your voice is not valued or heard. Solutions may range from claiming your space at the table and speaking up to getting training in public speaking.
What is behind ‘I am not feeling comfortable’? A fear of unknown, fear of perfection and or hesitation and doubts in handling a new situation, all can make one uncomfortable.
Consistency is obvious but often overlooked.
Four ways to build the blocks of managing label ‘Under Confident woman’:
Embrace your imperfection
Don’t wait for perfection. An obstacle in managing fear is – to not do anything till you have mastered it.
Learn by doing
You will make mistakes once you start doing it but don’t let it stops you from practicing. It’s not enough to be in a role or to sit at the table. One must also speak confidently, regardless of odds faced.
Find the right toolbox of tips and tactics and skills to solve the real challenges.
- Ask for help
- Get the training in the skills you lack e.g. public speaking or assertiveness.
- Engage and use mentors and coaches
- Practice what you fear the most
Become comfortable in your ability to communicate effectively and with influence, with yourself and then with others.