Playing Big as a Woman

Tara Mohr is on a mission to help women speak up and influence the world with their voice. Mohr is a personal coach who helps many women step up in life to find their calling. It’s best described as a personal development book for women in the workplace, but I don’t mean creating large business plans. This useful book is life-changing and really resonated with me! My copy of the book is filled with post-it flags of key parts that I want to refer back to. The message of this book will challenge you to think differently. Tara offers reasons women may choose to hold ourselves back, which is why so many of us are not playing big. The book is all about how to thrive as a woman and some specific skills and mindsets to create a fulfilling life. I've found many of the concepts to be helpful as it is encouraging to trust and believe in yourselves. The tangible advice and insights I most appreciated were the communication tips and how to unhook from praise and criticism. Let’s talk about some of her practical advice.

Communicating with Power
Language is a powerful tool. Mohr explains that there are words we commonly use to downplay our message or authority and thus undermines our speech habits. Some of these words and phrases include: "just", "actually", "a little bit", and "does that make sense". Mohr said, "research shows that low-power and low-status people in any group use hedges than high-power individuals, and that, accordingly, women use  wishy-wishy words that drain impact more than men."

For instance at work you might say, "I'm just going to share" or "I just wanted to check in", or "I’m just wondering". Mohr explains that it makes you sound vaguely apologetic, that women, unlike men, are worried about coming off too strong so they use the word to be justified. You can sound more powerful and confident saying the same things without using the word "just".

I actually think...I actually have a question...I actually disagree. Mohr explains that it makes it sound as if you are surprised that you have a question or that you disagree.

A little bit
Do you ever say at work, "I'd like to take just a few minutes of your time" or "I'd like to tell you a little bit about.." This implies that what you're about to say isn't worth much time or too many words.

Does that make sense
Mohr said, "Many women have a well-worn habit of ending statement with this. You are seen as less influential and less knowledgeable about your topic."

Instead of using these words, Mohr explained that you can still express warmth at work by making small talk with people or having a personal opening and closing to your emails. This is something I am working on, adding things like "have a nice weekend" at the end of my emails to colleagues I’ve never met.

Before you hit send email checklist
Check for "shrinkers" words like "just", "actually, and "almost" - delete them!
Check for unnecessary apologies
Check for any added "a little bit"
Check for "does this make sense" replace with "I look forward to hearing your thoughts" or "Let me know if you have questions about this".
Check for "I'm just thinking off the top of my head" or "You know more about this than I do" instead say "Let's do some brainstorming about this".
Instead of sharing your opinion: "I think this is the wrong direction for us to take" you might write instead "Does everyone feel sure about this direction?"
Weave in warmth - personal friendly opening and closing

Unlocking Praise and Criticism
This chapter was revolutionary for me. Mohr explains that feedback won't tell you if you're talented or not, it just tells you if your work happened to align with your boss' expectation. It tells you about the preferences and priorities of the people you work for. You have to start to see comments in that light to let it go. What's bothering you so much about the criticism is that it's usually something you believe or don't like about yourself, so that's why it really rang true or bothered you. As a fellow blogger Mohr gave a wonderful example when she said, "When I write a blog post, and no one comments on it, shares it on pinterest, I could conclude that I wrote a "bad post" and start listening to my inner critic that I'm no good at what I do. In my new way of thinking I can see that the feedback tells me about my readers, what makes a post compelling for them."

Another light bulb moment was the idea that women are scared to take the leap and spend way more time preparing for anything than men. For instance she says, "often brilliant women seek out more education for another season: because the next training or degree is within our comfort zone and leaping into playing bigger right now is not. Talented women with a dream believe that they need another degree, training or certification because they are not enough as they are." Not to say that getting a graduate degree isn’t beneficial, for some it most certainly is, but for others they could probably start doing the work they think they will be doing after the degree right now. Another example of over preparation and scared to leap is that you don't need to know your career direction before you have lunch with that senior woman you admire. You can ask for that mentorship lunch now. In fact, the lunch with her might help you figure it out.

Mohr encourages you to not look at things you have to do as chores but rather to change the thought process in your head. So you could reframe your negative connotations of having to exercise to "I have to move everyday to increase my own quality of life, sense of alertness, and overall health." My favorite was "I keep the house organized enough that it supports the kind of serenity I want everyday."

This thoughtful book is truly engaging, helpful, and worthy of your time. As a woman you will find this book quite inspiring! I recommended this wonderful book to my book club so I'm looking forward to discussing it with them next month.

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