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How to be assertive and avoid being ignored.

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

Have you ever been in a meeting or a social situation where you’ve said something like this: “You’ve probably heard this already but…”, or “I’m sure you know this already but…”, or “I’m sorry if you’ve already discussed this but…”? You have haven’t you? I know I have.

Today, while on a call with one of my accomplished clients who is breaking into new territory, I found myself distracted by the number of times she used one of these phrases to preface her point. This woman is a smart, successful go-getter and I wondered if she was aware of what she was saying and the impact it was having on her overall demeanour. When I flagged it she had no idea that a). She was doing it, and b). Why she was doing it. She’s definitely not alone. Today, I was taken back to memories of my executive corporate days when I heard these phrases used — always by women — in the boardroom. Really, I can’t recall an occasion where I heard one of my male colleagues discount their contributions.

It bothered me then and it bothers me now.

I call these phrases ‘discount statements’ because they discount everything you say after them. And that’s a sure-fire way to get yourself ignored.

You may tell yourself that you’re just being polite. But the ugly truth is that you preface an idea with a discount statement because you’re not convinced of your own value and self-worth. You’re not bought into the value of your ideas and contributions. You don’t trust yourself and so you discount which tells everyone you don’t really believe what you’re about say. By discounting what you say, you discount yourself. You may pluck up the courage to speak, but if you’re not fully committed to what you’re saying your body language will be timid and subservient. You’ll avoid direct eye contact, fiddle with your hair, touch your face or neck, speak quietly or fade to a whisper, and over-explain yourself. Your audience will respond by ignoring you, interrupting, reducing the significance of your contribution or, the worst of the worst, taking your idea, repackaging it and presenting it as their own. The net result is that you’ll feel totally exposed and you’ll kick yourself in the butt for opening your mouth. Next time you may say nothing at all and be railroaded into agreeing with things you don’t agree with and your self-worth will disappear down the toilet. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So here’s my plea. Please stop discounting your ideas and contributions. You’re a smart woman with great contributions to make to any meeting, seminar, workshop or discussion. You’ve earned your place at the table and you have every right to make those contributions, to say what you think, to say what you mean, and to mean what you say.

So, what do you do?

Whether you’re in the boardroom, your mastermind group, a seminar, workshop, or social conversation, just go right ahead and say what you want to say. No discount, no seeking permission, no explanation. Just say it. Just come straight out with it. “Bang. There it is. Chew on that.” Say what you have to say and then be quiet. Allow the discussion to follow, avoid agreeing when you don’t agree, and resist the temptation to explain yourself. You’ve stated your point of view, now let it sit. When people disagree with what you’ve said, remember that they have every right to. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong and they’re right. It doesn’t mean they’re smarter than you. It doesn’t mean they think you’re an idiot. It simply means they have a different opinion. For someone to disagree with what you’ve said means they find it valuable enough to consider and oppose. It means they heard you. Don’t make their disagreement or different opinion mean anything more than it does.

So please, enough with the discounting. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you have something worth saying, just say it. Head up, shoulders back, and go. You’ll be amazed by how good you feel when you do.

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