I was talking with a former colleague the other day. He and I worked together back when it was me and a team of (mostly) men, back when I worked with CEOs and management teams in Corporate America, back when I wore power suits, walked fast, talked fast, and got a lot of stuff done. And you know what he said to me when we were catching up?
“Fred, you don’t talk the same as you used to. You used to be much more direct and to the point. Now you use works like ‘I think’ and ‘I feel,’ and you hedge your point a lot more.”
I came to a screeching halt and thought 1) thank god for honesty, and 2) it’s not just me; I see this with women all the time.
Here’s how it shows up!
His point was a really good one. When I was working with teams of men, I learned to play along by being assertive, aggressive, and direct. And frankly, that worked for me and I like talking that way.
But then I started working with women, and I learned I needed to be a little softer. Which is ok, to a certain extent.
But you know when it’s not ok? When we’re so worried about hurting someone’s feelings that we soften the message too much.
We say things like “I don’t have time for that right now,” instead of saying that we’re not making it a priority. Because let’s be honest, “I don’t have time for that” is just a nicer way of saying “that’s not a priority for me.”
Wouldn’t business be so much more transparent and efficient if we were more direct and not worried about hurting one another’s feelings? I’m not talking about being rude, just being a little more assertive and hedging a little less.
Think about that the next time you’re negotiating a bank loan or the terms of a new contract. And don’t be surprised if you email me and I reply, “That’s not a priority for me right now. I still love you, but no.”