Lakshmipriya was born and raised in Perak, Malaysia and currently lives in London. Previously a Human Capital Consultant, she has worked in Malaysia and Dubai. She recently completed her PhD in Cognitive and Organizational Psychology in the UK. She has co-authored a book on talent management and is currently working on a paper that investigates the influence of sex differences when perceiving people. When not absorbed in academic research, Lakshmipriya enjoys Netflixing and cooking.
Speak Out, Be Heard!
Are women less authoritative, less likely to negotiate, and less willing to advocate a challenging position compared to their male counterparts? Plenty of research seem to say just that. A study conducted by the University of Cambridge says female students are two and a half times less likely to ask questions in academic seminars than the male students. A large number of them claimed they felt nervous, worried that they might have misunderstood the question, or simply did not feel clever enough.
I believe this is even more prominent in Asian cultures. Asian women are generally raised to be respectful and not interrupt when their elders speak. This ‘good-behaviour’ is then automatically applied in the university and workplace environment and learning to be assertive quickly becomes a counterculture for many.
The good news is, it is not too late to be aware and address this issue.
Speaking up confidently both in public and at the workplace, even if it may seem daunting at first, is achievable with some basic rules:
- Know your WORK!
Confidence only comes when you thoroughly understand the topic that is going to be discussed. Make sure you have all the information about the meeting/presentation. Practice your speech. If you think you’d feel nervous, present in front of a colleague or a friend who you know would offer constructive criticism when needed. Ask said person to ask you tough questions, so that you will be prepared for anything that might get thrown you way.
- Prep and be ready for action.
Your chance to speak up might come up at any time. First, write down (or type) the agenda and your ideas for the meeting/presentation. Vikki Pryor, a leadership development consultant in New York, suggests arriving early and picking your seat if you know that the meeting is going to be challenging. You will be more comfortable and will be able to calm your nerves before you are presented with the chance to speak.
- Understand how different sexes communicate.
Research shows that sex differences can influence how we perceive others. Author Deborah Tannen calls this the “report talk” vs. “rapport talk”. Her research shows that while men tend to “give a report” in order to enhance their power in a meeting, women tend to share an information in order to help others achieve the same knowledge. Understanding this difference can help us communicate better in the workplace. If the goal is to show your expertise on a matter, you should engage in “report talk”. On the other hand, if the goal is to build relationships, engage in “rapport talk” and share the floor with others. Most importantly, be aware of opportunities to speak up when necessary and if someone interrupts you, let them politely know that you haven’t finished talking yet.
- It’s OK to make mistakes.
No matter how professional we are, we all make mistakes. It’s absolutely normal to make a mistake when presenting or speaking in a meeting. Don’t dwell on it, instead, own it. Make it yours! Learn from it and move on.
The views expressed here are that of the writer’s and does not necessarily reflect that of Weekly-Echo’s