3 steps for women to become more assertive

I was emailing with a friend the other day and we were discussing her professional future.  In our conversation I realized how humble she was in spite of her incredible CV and achievements so far.  I pointed this out to her and she wrote to me that a part of her felt guilty when she expressed confidence in her skills.  I started writing to her about why I feel that it is hard for women to be assertive as we are actually programmed not to be.  After writing a few sentences I felt the urge to post a blog article and share some of my thoughts with a wider audience.

Courses about assertiveness abound, and actually as a woman you might almost feel guilty if you lack this much demanded skill. So why is it so hard for us to be self-assured and confident without being aggressive (common definition).  By the way, it is interesting that the definition implies that if you are self-assured and confident, it is highly likely that you will also be aggressive.

I think there are 3 main reasons why we, women, have difficulty being assertive and feel guilty when we are. And hence 3 steps to take in order to reverse the programme!

1)  Society in general expects women to be compliant.  Women are programmed to take care of others before worrying about themselves.  As wives and mothers, society expects us to satisfy our kids’ and husbands’ needs before our own.  This quickly becomes a natural trait and, in groups, we tend to satisfy other people’s or the system’s needs first.  This “programme” stops us from expressing our needs and wants, or opinions, let alone in an assertive way.

2)  We mix up behavior and identity.  When one expresses confidence in one’s skills, it’s like we are making a statement about our identity, although these are two very different things.  Behaviours, skills and competencies relate to the “WHAT” and the “HOW”, whereas identity has to do with the “WHO”.  Basically when you express confidence in your ability to do certain things, you merely indicate that you have successfully acquired a knowledge or competence, and not that you are great or fantastic and flying high on an ego trip. This is true for both women and men of course.

3)  It is very hard to let go of other people’s judgment. Let’s assume that you manage to reprogramme yourself to express your needs and wants (step one), and not confuse skills and identity (step 2), are you ready to not care about what other people may think or say about you?  What if they say that you are selfish?  Arrogant?  Aggressive?  Ambitious?  A killer?  A bitch?  One thing is for sure:  you can’t control what people think or say about you and whatever you do or say, they will have an opinion about you, for which you are not 100% responsible.  And by the way, what people say about you (especially negatively) says a lot about THEIR hopes and fears or emotional states, and not so much about who you are. Think about this the next time you hear criticism about you and ask yourself what this says about the person expressing it. It is quite an interesting exercise, I assure you!

So what stands in YOUR way to becoming more assertive and confident? I’d love to have your comments!

7 bonnes nouvelles sur le charisme

Le charisme est un mot magique. Prononcé dans un contexte d’apprentissage, il suscite haussements de sourcils et scepticisme.  Le charisme serait-il, comme un billet de loterie gagnant, un don réservé à quelques chanceux?  Ou, au contraire, peut-il s’acquérir et se développer ?  Et si c’est le cas, quelle est donc la recette de ce fabuleux et mythique cocktail 

1 – Le charisme peut s’apprendre. S’il est vrai que certains détiennent déjà un potentiel élevé, chacun d’entre nous peut le développer. Il suffit de voir les progrès de certains hommes politiques, pour s’apercevoir que même les cas que l’on pensait désespérés peuvent se travailler.

2 – Le charisme est indépendant de l’aspect esthétique du physique.  Mais il est vrai qu’il réside à plus de 80% dans le comportement non-verbal : la manière dont on « habite » son corps, la posture, les gestes, le regard, les expressions du visage, la voix, le ton, le rythme, les silences, etc.   C’est par votre comportement non-verbal que vous envoyez des « signaux » à vos interlocuteurs.  Ils se forment alors un jugement sur vous et décident – sans en être conscients – si vous êtes une personne de confiance, compétente ou non, sympathique, puissante, etc.  Ce jugement se fait dans les quelques premières secondes de votre rencontre, et de manière totalement inconsciente.  Ce n’est qu’après que l’on va tenter d’interpréter cette première impression. On pourra dire qu’on ne « sent pas » la personne, qu’elle « sonne faux », ou que l’on voit que quelque chose n’est pas clair chez elle.  Augmenter son potentiel charisme, cela demande de modifier ce signal de l’intérieur et d’être authentique et sincère, car sinon vous serez démasquée de manière tout aussi rapide et inconsciente. 

3 – Le charisme est une compétence du “savoir-être”. Ce n’est donc pas un “savoir” ou “savoir-faire”. Cela peut expliquer pourquoi on pourrait croire qu’il ne s’apprend pas. Et pourtant les compétences du savoir-être peuvent s’apprendre. L’influence, la créativité sont des potentiels à développer mais ils ne s’apprennent pas dans les livres.  Ils s’expérimentent en faisant un travail sur soi.

4 – Les spécialistes du comportement ont beaucoup étudié ce sujet fascinant pour en dégager les composantes.  Leur conclusion: c’est une alchimie subtile de pouvoir, de chaleur et de présence. Des exercices peuvent vous faire progresser sur chacune de ces trois composantes. Ils combinent pleine conscience, jeux de rôle, visualisation et techniques de centrage. Ce ne sont pas des exercices qui font appel à l’intellect ou à une connaissance particulière. Ils sont donc à la portée de tous.

5 – Parce que l’on travaille sur soi et sur le savoir-être, le changement s’inscrit dans la durée. Chaque petite amélioration est immédiatement observable et augmente le potentiel de manière profonde et durable.  Ces compétences et améliorations s’intègrent en nous, et deviennent comme une seconde nature. 

6 – S’il est indispensable pour les dirigeants (même s’ils n’en sont pas toujours dotés, et les exemples ne manquent pas), le charisme n’en est pas moins utile pour chacun, car il améliore significativement la qualité de votre vie professionnelle et personnelle.

 
7 – Augmenter son charisme aura des bénéfices secondaires: vous aurez appris à vous centrer, à gérer des situations, des émotions et des personnes difficiles, et aurez appris à mieux vous connaître et à réellement vous apprécier.

Bref, en développant son potentiel charisme, il n’y a rien à perdre et tout à gagner! Image Continue reading

10 tips to define your objectives

A coloured man is walking in the desert and is about to die from exhaustion.   He is tired, thirsty and hungry and, to tell the truth, quite desperate too.  He falls to his knees, and then on his face and starts crawling.  He understands that he is about to die and is ready for it, when all of a sudden a small lizard passes right in front of him.  He mobilizes all the energy that is left in his body and grabs the lizard.  At last, he thinks, I get something to eat!  But then he has a second thought: what’s the point, this is only going to postpone my death, and I will have taken the life of this little lizard for no reason.  So he lets the lizard go.  Instantly, the lizard transforms into a fairy and says: “You have saved my life and broken the spell under which I was. To show you my gratitude you may make three wishes and I will make them all come true.  I do recommend that you think very deep about your wishes, because this is your only chance”.  The man thinks hard and says:  “My mind is made, fairy.  I want to be white, rich and have plenty of water.  The fairy says: “are you quite sure?”  The black man replies: “Hell, yeah, that’s more than enough!”  So the fairy waves her magic wand, and does all the standard magic procedure, and … a glittering sound later, the wishes have come true.  The coloured man has become white, there’s plenty of water and he is in a very luxurious atmosphere indeed.  He is a bath tub in a 5-star hotel.

What has this got to do with reaching your objectives, you might ask?  Well, just as the man in the story should have been slightly more specific about how he worded his wishes, you need to be very specific about your objectives, and follow these 10 Golden Rules:

  1.  You have to be 100% in control of your objective.  If your objective depends on someone else, then you cannot be sure that you will be able to reach it.  You are the only person that you can control.
  2. It has to be formulated positively.  Try not to think about a white horse.  There you go; you can’t.  The brain responds to positive instructions.  With negative instructions, it has to first carry out the operation you tell him NOT to do, and then cross it out.  It may take a bit of thinking, but you will get used to it.  And by the way, stop and quit are negative.  So instead of “stop smoking”, you may have to say “breathe healthily”, “clean up my lungs”, or something like that.
  3. Make a multisensory description of your objective.  This is to train your brain to move forward towards the objective.  Make a very clear and detailed picture of you as you have reached your goal.  Create the scenery by visualizing it, add sound or a dialogue, imagine how you feel now that you have reached your goal.  Now add a very pleasant smell to your scene.  Smell is very powerful as it by-passes a few steps in the brain and goes straight to the decision-making center.  You are the scriptwriter and the director of your goal, so go ahead and make it as big and nice as you can, and play it back as often as you can.
  4. Contextualise your goal and be very specific in doing it.  Imagine that your goal is to be more relaxed and learn to let go.  But not while you are riding your horse or driving your car, right?  Or let’s say that your goal is to feel your emotions more intensely.  But not when you are undergoing surgery or having your legs waxed.  So when you are wording your objective, specify what, where, with whom, when, etc.
  5. What is your meta-objective, i.e. what does it satisfy for you to reach this particular objective?  Let’s say that your objective is to weigh 65kg (and you are 75kg)  in order to be healthier.  Health is the value that you are seeking to pursue.  Can you also satisfy the same value by doing more sports and eat more fruit and veggies?
  6. In harmony with your own ecosystem.  Losing 10kg in 2 weeks may not be very good for your body, so think about your objective so that it is mild and gentle with you and in line with your inner and outer balance.
  7. The price to pay: what do you have to give up or do less of in order to reach your objective?  Weigh it carefully to make sure that you are willing to pay the price, and that there will not be adverse effects to reaching your goal.  You may wish to travel around the world, but are you ready to see your kids only once a week on skype for 3 months?  Don’t just “imagine” if it’s ok for you; try to put yourself in the situation, and see if it’s ok.
  8. Consistent with who you are (becoming).  You wish to go to a certain country, but that country is a dictatorship, and human rights are very important to you.  Are you certain that this trip is the only way to satisfy your hunger for travel and your curiosity?
  9. Key indicators: you need to determine in advance how you will know that you will have reached your objective. This is linked to the multisensory description.  If you describe well enough what you will see/feel/hear/smell/taste upon completion of your goal, that is what will serve you as a basis to determine your key indicators.
  10. Stepping stones:  if your objective is spread over several days, weeks or months, it is useful to cut it into sub-objectives, by following the same criteria as you would for your goal.  By doing this, you have a way to evaluate whether you are getting closer to your objective or, on the contrary, moving away from it.  The first and last stepping stone, in the same way as the first and last page of a novel, are key.  So spend time and effort to describe them.

Here’s a bonus:

As you are progressing towards your objective, and at every step of the way, celebrate!  Celebrate the decision you made to move towards an objective, celebrate what you have already accomplished and, above all, celebrate when it doesn’t quite work the way you thought it would.  Because that’s when you learn most about yourself.  When failing, take time to understand what went wrong, make the necessary adjustments, and, off you go!

This is the first post of a series about the objectives.  In future posts, I will give you some tips on how to prepare to reach your objective, and what to do when you fail.  So watch this space for more!

Most of these rules are taken from NLP – neuro linguistic programming.  For more information about NLP, visit nlpu.  For information about NLP in French, search www.ressources.be

Gecko Strategies is now on line!

My name is Catherine Piana and I am the founder and CEO of Gecko Strategies. This activity is the result of years of professional experience in lobbying, and my passion for the functioning of human beings, individually and in groups.  This passion has led me to follow a course of NLP (I am a certified Master Practicioner in neurolinguistic programming).

I also have a strong need to share and pass on my discoveries on how we can unlock our potential, so I also became a certified trainer.  Meanwhile, I discovered that I loved helping people to find the keys to their own potential, and followed a Life Coach course.

To sum it all up, Gecko Strategies offers consulting, training and coaching (life and executive) services to people and organisations.

This is an activity that I have developed on the side of my job as a Director General of the European Vending Association, a very successful and active European Trade Association, which I joined in 1997.  At the EVA I learned to run teams from different nationalities, background, and business environments and I what I like most is finding what they have in common so that they can move forward together towards the same goal.  And after 15 years, I still enjoy it and learn new things every day about people, businesses and organisations.

To make sure my motivation and creativity are intact, I need to diversify, and this is why I started my own business, Gecko Strategies.  The Gecko is a metaphor for the ability to adapt to your environment, amongst the many resources of the small lizard, whislt maintaining a strong identity.

There will be more on this blog in the near future so watch this space.  Thank you for taking the time to drop by and read my first blogpost.  Feel free to ask questions and post comments or articles.