5 or 6 Coping Strategies for When You Don’t Feel Heard

August 27, 2013 0 Comments

Originally published at Take The Lead

Ever have a really interesting idea at work or in the world, share it, and notice that you don’t get much of a response? Either because people just don’t seem excited about it or say they don’t understand it? And then a dude, maybe someone you know or don’t know, maybe someone who came up with the same idea, or someone who is intentionally trying to support you, shares this same idea and everyone responds enthusiastically?

Yeah, me too. Weird, right?! And more than a little frustrating sometimes. When this happens, we can try to talk louder, get upset, (if it happens enough) leave the project or team, or swallow our feelings of disappointment. Or we can bypass all of these things—while still noticing what’s going on—and not let this gender bias keep us from doing the good work.

Because, after all, do men really have all the best ideas out there? My guess is no, even though sometimes the credit doesn’t seem to break that way.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned how to do this, ways I’ve learned from both women and men mentors, and through trial and error:

Lead by using your voice. When you don’t feel heard, it’s easy to repeat yourself more emphatically or stop talking altogether. While both responses can sometimes be necessary, neither works well as a general rule. More effective is to just keep on using your voice, stating your case plainly, aligning yourself with people who can hear you. It’s worth remembering, too, that people often hear you even if they don’t tell you they do. As we know from Susan Cain, some of our best thinkers and leaders are quiet folks. The same is true when it comes to advocates for women.

Lead with questions. For whatever reason, questions get heard more than other things we say, especially flat statements we share with others that we think we know are true. When you ask an open, inquisitive question about how together, your team can move the work forward or about the purpose of the project, people tend to respond in kind—with an open-hearted, engaged response. Questions get everyone involved and thinking, which means not only do you make a huge contribution to the group by asking a powerful question, but you lift women’s voices up in the process.

Lead with the work. It’s not true that “good ideas are enough” in this world. It is true that good work often speaks for itself. Lead with the work, keep the work at the center of the conversation, and push the work out in front of the messed up social dynamics we’ve all inherited. You can (and probably still should) name the gender bias you encounter one way or another, but back your own ideas up as much as you’d back up others’ ideas by putting them out there. Be your own advocate. The journalist Ann Friedman does this well and frequently.

Lead by taking risks. It may or may not be true—women are more “relational” human beings. Some of us are, anyway. In my case, for example, I don’t want run with an idea unless I’ve got other people in on the idea with me. This isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it slows me down. Invite people in on your projects and ideas, both inside and outside of organizations, but also run with them yourself. Visible action creates energy and inspires others to join you or support you.

Lead by creating new ways of getting the work done. I have no doubt, women and the men who support them are inventing the future. By this I mean, we are creating new systems, institutions, and models for getting work done across the board. Whether it’s Wendy Davis standing up to the Texas legislature or Rinku Sen calling for new strategies for racial justice organizing or the women at Skillcrush teaching other women how to code, learn the latest technology, and get their work out there —we are creating the new. Sometimes when we don’t feel heard, it’s because we’re genuinely saying something new that people haven’t heard (or been able to hear) yet. Jump into doing this new work, find your community, know that the world needs you.

And when all else fails, find your men allies and use them. What do you think? Share your tips for putting your work and your voice out there!


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