Monday, June 05, 2006

Women: Take Heed

The definition of assertiveness (as witnessed by me last week on the subway):

A woman hurries onto a subway car and slices between two well-dressed businessmen in order to get to a seat before the doors close. She fidgets with her bags, looks at her arm then asks one of the men, "Do you have the time?"

Man 1: It's about 5:10.

Woman (matter-of-factly): It can't be "about".

Man 2 (quickly): It's 5:17pm.

Woman: Thank you.

Like, wow. I sat there stunned. And by the looks on the mens' faces, they had no idea what just hit them either.

That moment gave me an Assertiveness Wake-Up Call for I'm quite sure that I, as well as most other women, would have accepted the first man's response (and thanked him for it!). I would have preferred the second man's response but would not have dared demand it. Is it because they are men? Is it because they were businessmen? As i think on those two questions, i'd answer no to both. I think it's simply a matter of women not being taught to be assertive like that. I'd have accepted that response from anyone.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a seminar and one of the subjects was How To Be Assertive Without Being Pushy. The speaker (a female) talked at length about the differences in the way men and women communicate in positions of power. We found that women are more likely to passively ask for things that should be demanded (i.e. "When you get a minute, would you mind printing that cost report for me?" as opposed to "Please print the cost report before the end of the day") Of course, i'm generalizing and not all women are shrinking least not as adults. And i can't help but wonder how the assertive ones got that way. Were they taught as young girls or was it learned life experience?

For me, i'm assertive in situations that seem to clearly call for it. But it's definitely not knee-jerk. Its something i have to consciously remind myself of. On some "ok if you really want this or if you don't like this you must speak up or else". And the only reason why is because i've had situations where i've missed out on opportunities or was taken advantage of because i kept quiet or didn't ask the right questions or didn't make myself visible enough, etc.

I'm sure there are many men who are not assertive as well...maybe it's just not as noticeable because men seem to garner a certain amount of respect and attention just from being male. But yeah, ladies. We need to step our game up. Cuz as you can see, sometimes all it takes is a few well-placed words and a confident attitude.


Piscean Princess said...

Hey girl! Happy Monday!

I took an assertiveness class for women at my job too. It didn't add tons of value for me because in the work setting, I rarely have any instances where I'm being passive. I was more so hoping for some help being less aggressive. (I was the only woman in the class who was seeking that kind of guidance.)

But like I kept telling the teacher and the other women, there are times when I'm not as assertive. Like in some aspects of my personal life. And if I had asked the guys on the train for the time, I would have accepted the "estimate" and just been annoyed.

My mother taught me to be assertive (much to my dismay). She was constantly making me ask people for what I wanted, even if I thought they would say no. But she was not at all assertive in her romantic relationships, so I never really had an example of how that works. I am usually either quietly pissed off (when I should be expressing myself) or going absolutely bananas and saying something that is brutally (and unnecesarily) honest. Neither option has a good outcome. I guess I will have to keep working on it!

Damali said...

you bring up an interesting point, mz. princess :) I would imagine that there are a great number of women who are appropriately assertive in their professional life but not in their personal one. hmmmm....

and kudos to your mom. as a woman with sons, i'm gonna try to be more conscious of making sure that i set a good example of assertiveness for them (publicly and relationship-wise). I'm aware that they will basically judge all women on how they see me so that's alotta cross to bear...

Jehan said...

"it can't be about"?

then she can't be talking to me.

there's a line (sh:t ain' even that fine, yo) that she crossed from assertive to rude. if that's how she rolls, and it works for her w/out negative consequence, then i'm surprised.

i doubt the businessmen pre-emptively devalued her gender's perceived weakness to such an extent that they felt her unworthy of accuracy to the millisecond, yet w/ a man similar to their own stereotype they'da been "5.17 and 24 seconds, 25, 26, 27..."

i'da laughed her insecurely demanding ass off my watch and off the subway.

Damali said...

yikes. yeah you would have been the wrong one for her to try that on..