Let me tell you about Susan. She represents many clients I’ve had over the years who have all told me in one way or another: “All my life I feel people have been telling me to tone it down or just shut up.” The thing is, Susan is a strong woman who is confident and quite willing to speak her mind, just like strong men do. You’d think that’s a good thing—I do.
But not everyone likes strong women. I can tell you who does though: Strong men and strong women like strong women. But that leaves a lot of others who would rather you tone it down, be nicer or just be invisible—unless you happen to agree with them.
That’s why a man can interrupt the person who just interrupted him and even raise his voice doing so and no one thinks twice. If a woman does that, people take notice. Men are expected to push back when they get a job offer, to negotiate a higher offer, but women are penalized for doing so. And don’t get me started on how anger is judged differently in a man versus a woman.
So what do you do as a strong woman, especially if you’ve been wronged in some way?
A strong woman leads the way
If a strong woman is being spoken to in a condescending manner in a meeting, she speaks up then and there. She doesn’t worry about embarrassing the other person because she knows he or she has already embarrassed himself or herself. She doesn’t take responsibility for how the other person will feel—she knows the other person is responsible for their own emotions. Are there exceptions to speaking up in real time when you’re wronged? Yes, but a strong woman doesn’t turn exceptions into the rule—she speaks up now.
A strong woman’s goal isn’t to be “nice”
A strong woman’s goal is to speak her mind and to be heard. Her goal is to right a wrong, not to make someone feel superior to her for the sake of the other person’s ego. A strong woman is able to speak up, set limits and even fire a shot over the bow without worrying about the fall-out. She knows that the right people will respect her and she doesn’t worry about the wrong people who won’t—the people who would judge her while admiring a man for doing the same thing.
A strong woman would say, “Frank, you interrupted me, hold your thoughts while I finish what I need to say,” and then speak her mind. That might not be nice, but it’s respectful and effective. A strong woman doesn’t aim to be nice—she intends to be (and is) respectful and effective. However, her definition of “respectful” might not be the same as yours if you’re not also a strong woman or man.
A strong woman owns her strength and power
A strong woman likes who she is and she is unwilling to change for the sake of others. Strong women own their opinions. They expect to be treated fairly, and if they’re not, they’re going to deal with—and they don’t seek your permission to do so. It’s not that a strong woman is hard to get along with—she’s just not willing to go along just to get along. That’s what nice people do to avoid conflict—then they go away feeling powerless and resentful.
If a strong woman can’t right the wrong, and if it’s slight, she will exercise wisdom and not turn a slight into a deal-breaker. However, if it is a deal-breaker, a strong woman will let you know that right away and in no uncertain terms. If things can’t be repaired, whether it’s work or a personal matter, a strong woman will find another job where she is welcomed for her strength, she will find another significant other who is strong enough to be her equal or she will find another friend who is really her friend.
A strong woman will not be wronged and suffer in silence—she knows what she deserves and has the courage to speak up or walk away.