Before writing her book, Playing Big, Tara Mohr posed this question to her blog readers:
What is the biggest issue, of the four listed below, that you are dealing with right now?
- Work/ life balance
- Playing small
The overwhelming response was “playing small.”
It’s a pervasive problem. 51% of the population consists of women, but only 4% when it comes to the CEOs of major companies.
This is a book about turning that around, and helping women to play big.
I read this book on the heels of Cheryl Sanberg’s Lean In. Comparatively, it taps more into your emotional side, and feels more like you’re being coached versus advised.
One of my favorite Playing Big concepts was embracing your “inner mentor” over your “inner critic.”
I myself sometimes find my internal narrative being overtaken by my inner critic. Mohr encourages readers to give a tangible identity to this inner critic so that its voice (which is usually irrational, persistent, and panicky) can be more easily recognized for what it is.
You might think of your inner critic as being an ogre, witch, or just a cranky old curmudgeon. For me, it’s a snake hissing out negative messages. When you’ve identified your inner critic, you can imagine sending it off to a separate physical location when it arises. I visualize the snake slithering out into the woods.
Your inner mentor is a wiser version of yourself – an essence that is truest to the best part of you. Mohr provides a guided meditation to help you to connect with this part of yourself. When I find myself in a hard situation, or feel the inner critic seeping in, I try to tap in to my inner mentor.
Another part of Mohr’s book that I found very useful was practical advice on how to improve our communication as women. Many women (myself included) take on a pacifying tone in situations where an assertive attitude would be more useful. (I’ve also spoken with male colleagues who find they struggle with this as well, so the dilemma isn’t limited exclusively to the female clan.)
Mohr discusses some of the verbal landmines that take away your authority. This list includes some of the words featured in her book, as well as a few I pulled from on article on TheMuse.
The word “just” minimizes your thoughts and requests. For example, “I just wanted to see if you’d completed that assignment” dilutes the importance of what you are asking. Being more direct and dropping the “just” is better: “Have you completed the assignment?
Using this word makes it seem like you’re surprised by your own idea. “I actually would like some more information” versus “I’d like some more information please.”
Apologizing when it’s not necessary. The word “sorry” should be reserved for when there is something relevant to apologize for, not for mere circumstances. “Sorry, Wednesday doesn’t work, can we do Thursday instead?” Your schedule didn’t do anything wrong; there isn’t a need to offer penance for it.
Does that make sense?
A better alternative is “let me know if you have any follow up questions.”
This word can imply you don’t have control over a situation. “Hopefully we’ll get this resolved by tomorrow,” versus “We’ll get this resolved by tomorrow.”
When used in appropriate settings, some of these words can of course be appropriate. They can help to soften requests when softening is needed, and make your requests more approachable. BUT when the goal is to be assertive and strong, it’s important to watch out for this weak language.