What Confident Women Know about Looking Composed.
Last month I sauntered into a room full of association members, all gathering at lunchtime to hear me talk. The leadership subject was a familiar one to me, so assurance in the content was a cinch. But other issues loomed: the gum I had just pulled from bottom of my heel while coming down the hallway (who has the indecency to drop gum on carpet?), the faceless audience, and that ever-unknown room set-up. Ever had to speak to a group where massive pillars dotted the middle of the room?
But the piece de resistance was the skirt tucked inside my hosiery.
It has happened to us all. The true injustice was the timeliness of this misfortune. I actually entered the room with my skirt “not fully deployed”, shall we say. Before the start of the engagement, a sympathisizing onlooker approached me with the unpleasant news and I quickly corrected the wardrobe malfunction. So now, how to adjust. I reached into my metaphorical “assuredness” bag, and pulled out some backbone, remembering that how I react to this may send a strong message about my character. I remembered a favorite saying: Our story is not so much what happens to us, as what we make of what happens to us.
A reaction of self-despair and embarrassment would only give the experience some legs, so to speak. My first piece of advice – act like nothing happened. I call it the “act as if …” So I acted as if it did not happen. I acted as if I was the leadership authority on the premises. I acted as if it was normal to have a little mis-step here and there.
You see, if you act stupid, people think you are stupid. (Substitite “embarrassed”, “unsure”, or dim-witted” as needed). Recently, a study from the University of California at Berkeley monitored people’s reaction to confident co-workers. When tasked with a project and asked afterwards who was thought of as smartest, those that took initiative were viewed as smarter. These go-getters did not score any higher on intelligence tests, but their confident know-how sent a strong message: act with self-assurance and you are treated as competent.
It’s a strong message for anyone who has felt under fire or been the underdog. This is often a situation to which women can relate because most of us work in a male-dominated environment where we are the minority and easily outvoted. We call our assets our strengths, but some may see them as quirks. A workplace where the my-way-or-the-highway approach makes you feel run over will likely trigger a little self-doubt.
Drive on, woman.