The Invisible Fight to Own the Respect and Power of Emotion: Emotional Intelligence With, or Without, Women?
i was eleven years old when my father took me to the hospital to see my mother who had gone in for “some tests for bursitis”. He warned me that she might be hooked up to some tubes and that it shouldn’t upset me. An emotionally buoyant little girl, I was not cowed by that warning and I bounced into the room and up onto her bed to hug her.
Which is when she told me that she was actually in hospital for a biopsy. And that she had breast cancer.
I started to cry. And she – alarmed because she didn’t want to turn into a river of tears herself – said urgently, “No, no! Don’t cry!” And I stopped. Immediately. My emotional reaction was too much for my mother to bear, and I would have done anything for her. So I held it all back.
Years later when I entered the business arena, I encountered a different type of fear of emotion, one that all women come to understand in this Western culture of ours: emotion is both the butt of too many jokes about us and an accusation leveled against us when we seem too powerful. I was a little surprised, some years even further on, when I began to hear emotion referred to more positively, more as “a consummation devoutly to be wished” (to quote Mr. Shakespeare) when someone (generally a man) needed to laud his intuition.
But it is clear to every woman that emotion is judged differently for women than it is for men. To highlight this situation, allow me to usie a very recent and notable example.
At first, it felt like standing naked in public, with nowhere to run! Terrifying, shocking, and almost comical.The first time I stepped onto a professional stage to audition for a play, my knees literally knocked — I could actually hear them! — and the paper in my hand was audible too: shaking beyond my control to stop it. God knows how I read the lines on that paper when it was shaking so hard, but somehow I managed.
I have to tell you also that the feeling of being naked and unprotected also felt magnificent! It was a feeling of aliveness so focused, so intense, I realized that I had never before been so alive, and that I wanted to live in that peak experience most of the time from then on! But how? I was in business!!!
Well I did become a professional actor. On the side. I was absolutely addicted to the feeling of immediacy, truthfulness, openness and that quicksilver skittering of aliveness across the nerve ends that accompanies opening up in public. I still worked in corporate America, but I dreamed of becoming a full-time actor.
I was eighteen years old and working my very first office job. It was a temporary position through Kelly Services - known then by the infantilizing name of "Kelly Girls". Being as I was then, a good little girl and more than eager to please, I brought all of my desire to please to this position. I was ready to scale tall buildings in a single bound, walk through fire, dedicate myself to whatever was asked of me!
In I walked, ready to take on the most onerous tasks. I was nervous, I was scared, but I was strong and ready.
The boss sat me down and gave me a large stack of forms, four pages to a form, and told me to separate them by color.
Pink sheets here, yellow there, blue over here, and green over here. That was it: the whole job.
I thought I had died. I knew I hadn't gone to heaven.
Two hours in, I got a call from Kelly Girls. I had been fired. I couldn't understand it! I had been dutifully separating the forms - no mixing of greens and blues - and suddenly I was fired? What had happened?
Being eighteen, and a good girl, I didn't question a thing. I just...went home. Being a really good girl, I blamed myself. I hadn't yet learned to be a threat to insecure authority figures by speaking up and asking questions, or walking out of bad situations before being asked to.
Now, fast forward to adulthood.
I've never been much of a Soaps watcher. The entire daytime phenomenon would have completely passed me by if I hadn't been terribly lonely and surrounded entirely by gay men instead of equally yummy straight men when the whole Luke and Laura thing almost passed me by.
I don't recall what initially drew me in, but once I understood that there was this woman who wanted to return to the love of her life, and she and he were yearning for one another, and he thought she was dead, and there were these tantalizing and endless scenes of her aliveness almost but not quite being revealed...well, I was hooked.
If you have been a Genie Francis fan - the woman in this emotional melodrama - you will know that in her field she is considered a leader. And in less than 2 minutes in this video, she describes something that holds a lot of us back: obedience. Take a minute and watch this video about her unconscious obedience to "stand on uour mark", which is what actors do when they are filming a scene.
We women are rewarded for obedience when we're young, while boys are rewarded for boldness. And those lessons are sticky. Gluey. They stick with us as mental/emotional set points that we don't even notice.
So today I invite you as a leader to get off your mark and move around your world in new and untried ways. No matter how small the change, the results will melt that glue off obedience, and reward you for being seriously bold.
I have seen the feminine way in action. It's powerful. It's empowered. It's compassionate and clear-eyed. It's full of conviction. It is inclusive of "the other". It has a soul and a mind of its own. It suffers no fools. It's successful.
And we don't do it. Why?
Complex topic, right? It includes the personal reasons, and the collective reasons. Into this complexity I offer these stumbling blocks as an answer to that question:
It will sound incredibly weird to say this, but we women have actually been masculinized in our mentality. We hold to these socially masculine ideas: Go for the goal! Never quit! Hold yourself to an unreasonable standard! Be prettier, sexier, more appealing! We adjust our self-judgment and our actions to these so-called "norms".
Click "Read More" Below
You're in business or you are an entrepreneur. You are an Administrative Assistant, a Vice President, or a game-changing public speaker. Any way you look at it, there is something we women have been missing, and I've been noticing it for years of my work with women in business.
You would think that being "nice" was a good thing!
When a "Good Girl" - a woman who follows the rules even when the rules are wrong and stop her from succeeding - takes being nice as her standard as she goes onto the Sales Field to play the Sales Game, she is bound to fail.
She might think it "rude" or "pushy" to ask for the sale. She is bound to lack the creative ways she could use to unlock the doors that the prospective customer could walk through, wallet open. She thinks that being assertive in sales might just be about manipulation, and that leaves her feeling conflicted because she knows that "manipulation" and "nice" just don't go together. So she goes into charm and niceness as deeply as she can.
And it just doesn't get the job done.
The Fundraiser misses her sales opportunity. The Saleswoman uses niceness to excess and misses, sometimes entirely, the benefits of service through assertiveness and strength.
It's clearly well beyond time to jailbreak through that "niceness" moniker and taste the free air of successful sales by seeing everything about it through a service and caring lens uninhibited by personal disempowerment.
So, what can the Good Girl do? What should she know that she doesn't know? How can she get the sale without jettisoning her inherent sense of service, and care for others?
I had to make a decision recently: to take a regular 40 hours a week job that would be a nice job and provide a lot more stability than I have had in recent years but not a ton of money...OR...stick with my two part-time jobs and keep working on my business.
But one of my part-time jobs - a seasonal sales gig that draws on my interpersonal communication skills - did not deliver the follow-up gig that they and I had hoped. So I went looking for another part-time job...and stumbled across an offer for a FULL-time job. Uh-oh. Decision time!
Taking the job meant I would not be able to continue teaching kids at The School of Rock. This meant I would not be able to give extraordinary amounts of time to building my business during daytime hours! How, I asked myself, could I "back off" of my total commitment to building my business??? I was smart enough to put this conundrum in front of a team of fellow entrepreneurs. (I jettisoned my pride in favor of support and input years ago, and it has been a most rewarding thing to have done! And this was no exception: I got a lot of answers.)
I was a young and naive 16 years old when my mother's friend, Dilly (short for Millard), gave me one day of work at his film company.
It was 1973 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and life was far simpler. But for me, I was primed to approach this mission of living up to parental and parental friend's expectations like a soldier going to war. I had to prove that I was good, and good enough, and that I would be approved of and that I could do what was essentially my very first day of my very first job, short-lived though it would be.
I knew how to type faster than the wind, but I didn't know how to send an overnight package. I had never had to do so. But this shocked Dilly. I don't know if he thought I was supposed to come in genetically predisposed to know how to be a secretary, but his shock felt frightening to me. I couldn't just look at him and say, "No, I don't. Why don't you show me?" I felt like a failure. Hard on myself? You bet! WAY too hard on myself. Insanely so.
After I had finished the day - literally sweating while sitting at the typewriter (yes, children, there WERE no personal computers) - Dilly called my mother and, understandably perplexed, asked her why I was so nervous!
This was courage. Unadulterated courage.
And it was so. very. much. MORE.
Her emotional vulnerability plus strength.
Her downloading to us of core emotional information, through her high simplicity.
Her refusal to be goaded into reactivity or defensiveness.
Her graciousness under the most extreme pressure.
To say I am a fan is to put it ridiculously mildly. But there was so much meta information happening here that all I can say is: Listen up! We have been given some p o w e r f u l lessons and information here. So, yeah, that's what I'm gonna say: LISTEN UP!
Performance-Based Self-Expression Coach for Women Leaders
Do you like the idea of breaking those social "should's" that have held you back for too long? Do you like the idea of successfully changing your modes of communication, your business goals, your self-image, and to your quality of life?
Lori Kirstein, CEO
The Goodbye Good Girl™ Project LLC
Exposing Your Strengths by
Kicking the Good Girl Rules to the Curb!
Cincinnati, OH 45205