I work with a lot of women that are struggling to change their life. Often, what stands in the way of their success in their personal and professional life is their inability to firmly say “no”. Frankly, they’re just too nice. Now don’t laugh, because the truth is that many of us have been taught from an early age that being liked is a very important goal for a woman. Having a pleasing personality and getting along with others is what’s culturally accepted. Let’s face it, if we don’t say yes and get along, we might be viewed as “the b-word”. We don’t want to risk this label so we go to very great lengths to be pleasant and accommodating, which often backfires on us.
A couple months ago, I was organizing a large party with a group of 8 women. Anytime you get that many women together with so many personalities, it’s a given that there’s going to be disagreements and some conflicts. Since I have a pretty good understanding of human behavior, I went to great lengths to make sure this didn’t happen.
I took it upon myself to take notes at the first meeting, and encouraged everyone to get involved. I also made sure to not push my opinion on the others but to just facilitate the process. Once an individual committed to a task, I would repeat the name of the individual and what they had just committed to complete. Then, I would look around at each woman to make sure everyone agreed to this decision.
My task was to follow through on the caterer and the budget allotted. When the caterer sent me the proposal, she included choices beyond our budget as well as in our budget-common protocol. I then proceeded to send this information to the group. I received a call from one of the women the very next day, upset and yelling on the phone about the budget. She accused me of not following through on my responsibility and found fault with all my decisions. To say the least, she was condescending, rude and way out of line. The phone call went on for 28 minutes and she refused to listen to the simple explanation.
Throughout the whole conversation, I kept a very calm, sweet manner and refused to take part in any of the ranting and raving. Inside, I was raging with anger. I kept quiet and didn’t say a word about how I felt. You know why? I convinced myself in those moments that I didn’t want to start anything and I certainly didn’t want the other women to think I was the “B” word.
Well, guess what? The whole thing backfired on me. My counterpart went back to the rest of the group and spun the story to her advantage. She ranted about how I was inappropriate and impossible. She created the exact image of me that I was trying to avoid.
The reason I was so angry was because I had completely stifled what I was feeling. My common behavioral pattern would be to firmly state my ground and calmly (without emotion) demand some respect. Because I didn’t do this, she felt she could walk all over me. Frankly, I think I asked for it.
Many women go to great lengths to be perceived as kind and nice. However, this so-called behavior is exactly what will hold you back from your greatness. Stop seeing this issue in black and white-there is a huge range of behavioral choices between action that results in you being the “B” word and you being a total pushover. You can be firm in conflict situations while still having healthy boundaries. It’s true— even strong, confident women slip up now and then.
Shari is a Women's Life Coach, Mental Health Therapist, Keynote Speaker and Author of "31 Days to Finding Your Inner Sass". She can be contacted at email@example.com To learn more about Shari, go to www.sharigoldsmith.com