International Women's Day - stand up and say something


As I write this blog a woman I know is standing up for herself in a courtroom.  This is a result of having self belief, positive intent, and holding to herself experiences from the past that are so very bad and to this day shared with very few.  There has been aggressive bullying and unreasonable behaviour towards her on the way to this day and more.  The attributes she has found together with the support of others gives this woman the strength needed to go through this experience and stand up for herself today.  I salute her strength and sense of purpose.

I tried to find out who Alice Lisenby, the writer of this quote, is or was, and whether she shared this belief as a result of an experience she herself had.  No success though.  Thank you, Alice all the same.  I agree with your words.

Standing up for yourself

I write on International Women's Day using this quote because my life and work have included witnessing women standing up for themselves regularly and because I believe this is a positive behaviour to have in tough times for everyone.  We can all point to women in the headlines and how they respond continuously to trolling, verbal abuse and more and are able somehow to stand up for them self.  We can all learn as women to not pillory other women and undermine them in these circumstances by colluding with perpetrators.  I speak from personal past experience on that one!  I too have had the necessity to stand up for myself as a woman in response to sexism, prejudice, aggression, assault, harassment inter alia.  

Skills and values

Standing up for yourself is rooted in some skills and values everyone, men and women, can learn and use.  The values, which many people will align with, are fair and equitable treatment, respect and empathy.  The skills are emotional intelligence, cognitive ability including the ability to re-frame, flexibility and having a growth mindset, all enabling us to manage ourselves and others in conflict situations and find the resourcefulness to stand up for our self.  Added to that is understanding and being able to adopt assertiveness as a way of behaving and speaking.  No one naturally communicates assertively, for example.  It takes practice, learning and strength to see it through when things are tough.  

Courage to stand up for others

If women are going achieve a better and fairer chance in a still unequal society (I can't believe in 2018 it's only 100 years since we achieved adult suffrage in this country and that women have so many challenges still), particularly when there are still women who are deprived, in poverty, excluded, marginalised, abused, trafficked, putting up with harassment as if it is normalised - every woman who can should stand up for others.  It should be our goal, whether male or female, to stand up for others because:

  • We are in control of ourselves.  We control everything we think, feel, say and do.  So we can't control other people, but we can speak up, say something, do something to support others within our realm of control.
  • It shows responsibility, accountability, emotional maturity.
  • We can all learn and be resilient.  Part of being resilient is asking for and giving support and we can all do that.
  • It's the right thing to do.  And an assertive person has the right to say how they feel and ask for change.
  • It helps things to change and improve.  Things get better when we make a stand even if it is just moving minds or there is a small change.  

The hardest part

The hardest thing is finding the resources and courage in the difficult moment.  We have the right at work or elsewhere to state the problems and challenges we see arise and have those discussed and resolved appropriately.  I point to the attributes the role model in paragraph one found, along with some tips and ideas here for behaving assertively when some courage is needed:

  • Listen - establish communication calmly; then talk, use "I" (not "you", which is aggressive) and give information without attaching values which suggests making judgment.  State what you know ('I know') and what you feel ('I feel').
  • Now ask - ask directly for what you want or need or what you want to be different or to change.  Ask for commitment to action ('I'd like...').
  • Listen - listen to the reply.  Showing you are listening is important and you can reflect back what you heard and re-assert a request.

When you stand up and it's ignored

  • Restate your request, pause, breathe
  • Respond not react - assertiveness is conscious, adopted behaviour
  • Negotiate or request a discussion; pursue, don't give up (unless you feel threatened in which case withdraw)
  • Flex and try again, homing in on their values, what's important to them
  • Stand your ground and explain what's important 
  • Be confident, this is not about upsetting someone (if they get upset or angry that's about them not you and achieving popularity is not your prime objective here)
  • Stay in the present, don't dwell on the past or the last time this happened

Meeting your needs and the other person's

Your needs are important when you stand up for yourself so be straightforward, open, direct and keep to the point, ask clearly for what you want, give a genuine reason but don't then try and continually justify; and no manipulating the other person.

The other person's needs should be met in an assertive conversation.  It will take courage just to speak up, as Alice says, but assertive conversations are always aiming for win/win.  So still listen to their needs and acknowledge problems that you are responsible for if this is true, help them understand you.  Sulking or becoming aggressive is unlikely to change things. 

Courage to stand up and say something

Courage is not the absence of fear.  Meg Cabot, a successful American author and screen writer for Disney wrote this oft quoted line, and goes on to say courage is rather the judgment that something is more important.  

Don't wait until something that's been simmering away or is wrong or unjust boils over today.  Find the courage to say something and put it right, assertively and kindly.  If you think you or a colleague would benefit from learning the skills and tools to do this get in touchCoaching is available also, and a few sessions can give you the boost you need.