Yesterday I was talking with a young woman who is looking to increase her assertiveness. She told me story that made my HAIR STAND ON END. She said that an Uber driver, who had recently driven her from her place of work to her home, had come by her office the next day and offered to give her a ride home. She accepted, even though she didn’t feel comfortable doing so, because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Off the clock – Uber had no record of this trip. She didn’t even know his last name. The next time he called she had her coworkers tell him she wasn’t there.
She put her self in danger because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Too often I see in women a hesitancy to be direct and firm for fear of not being “nice”. Many women feel guilty for saying “no”. Life isn’t all puppies and unicorns and you need backbone. Don’t shirk facing it by telling your coworkers to tell him you’re not there. Firmly, and without explanation, tell him “Thank you, but I don’t need a ride.” When he demands to know why, repeat that sentence. I call it the broken-record technique and it works well when being confronted by someone who is asking you to do something you don’t want to do. You don’t have to explain. Poise, confidence, and firmness will send a message that excuses and artificial politeness cannot.
Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. Women have great strength and ability to nurture a group. Women leaders score higher on employee engagement and we are far better negotiators when we negotiate for others than for ourselves. Women are more likely to go to bat for the team. This becomes a weakness when we strive to keep the peace at the expense of ourselves.
No justification or explanation is needed. You are perfectly within your rights to say “no”. You don’t have to justify your worth, your decision. I tell coaching clients to remember, “explaining is draining”. When you are asked to justify your beliefs, your values, your decisions, it quickly feels like back-pedaling or excuses, and bullies/aggressors (both men AND women – this isn’t about men but about bullies) will use that to back you into a corner. Don’t hand people the gun to shoot you with. Your boundaries are your boundaries and require no justification.
For example, I had a debate with who made a disparaging comment about “women drivers” and I pointed out that statistics show women are better drivers. He said statistics mean nothing; the sample size is too small and skewed. He acted the bully and made it personal, asking about my personal driving record. I refused to answer as it was inappropriate an irrelevant – I don’t represent all women drivers. And wasn’t a sample size of 1 too small and skewed? (Using his logic.) Moot point. I asked:
Charming. I didn’t rise to the bait. I owed him no personal information.
A bully tactic is to challenge the other person’s intelligence, beliefs, value with questions intended to gather information to sling it back at them, to get their opponent off-guard and feel cornered.
At age 25 I wasn’t so good at this either. I had the advantage of mentors in my career that helped me learn to handle conflict. Get a coach, find a mentor. Learn to believe in yourself.