On May 18, 2012 I gave the closing keynote, “Successfully Dealing with the Weaker Sex, as Told By One of Them,” (scroll down to see) as part of the Manatt Women’s Initiative.
The three takeaways that many of the women in the audience seemed to find most useful included:
- Be a Big Sister – In my executive advising role, my persona which seems to work very well with both women and men is being “the big brother you always wanted.” I am fortunate to have two such big brothers, so this isn’t just a theoretical construct. The qualities that they have and I try to emulate are: a) take charge; b) non-judgmental; c) not controlling; d) loving. Just as this works better than having a father or son or husband persona, coming from a smart, strong and loving “big sister” persona instead of mother, wife, girl friend or daughter may work for you.
- Step Away from Being a Deer in the Headlights – When men act up by being degrading, dismissive, condescending, shut off or sullen that can often dumbfound you as a women and get you off balance. At that point, you can feel and look like a deer in the headlights, which makes you even more vulnerable to such a man’s next volley of vitriol. The reason men are able to do this is that women at their core come from oxytocin (which is about connecting and bonding) and estrogen (which is about nesting and building a home) while men come from adrenaline (which is about competing and winning) and testosterone (which is about aggression). When a man is coming from winning and aggression towards your bonding and building instincts, it drive a wedge right into you, which is why you feel so appalled by their behavior. The key here is to always be proud of coming from bonding, connecting and building. Without it, we would all be savages.
- Go Ahead, Make My Day! – When you are faced with “men behaving badly,” instead of being transfixed waiting for them to deliver their next insult, calmly, intently but not aggressively focus on their left eye’s pupil and iris. Never take your eye off this. As you are doing this imagine the following: a) that their left eye is connected to their right/emotional brain which is less in control and less controlling than their dominant right eye which like their right hand is connected to their left brain; b) as you are looking into their left eye imagine seeing the fear that usually lurks behind men’s aggression (the fear of being found out as not knowing what they’re talking about or the fear of being discovered to be self-centered, selfish, not caring about anyone else and worried that people will see it). Keep looking into their left eye and after they have ranted or said something insulting to you, hoping to provoke you and push you off balance, pause for a few seconds (which will make them nervous, because you are on to them) and then say to them in your best, unperturbable, big sister voice: “What was THAT all about!” If they become further agitated, because their m.o. hasn’t worked, and bark something else at you, respond with: “And THAT too! You seem really upset, what’s that all about?” You can keep doing this until it disarms them. The key to it is your tone of voice. One degree to the right towards the “b” word or left towards complaining and it will not work.
There are many other ways to be formidable as a women without losing your femininity, but I hope those three can get you started.