Whether something smaller — like asking for a discount on a defective item or negotiating for a cheaper rate at a hotel — or something bigger — like asking your employer for a raise or getting the information/answers/treatment you need from your doctor — the idea of advocating for ourselves makes many of us squeamish.
We worry about hearing the word “no.” We worry we don’t deserve what we’re asking. We worry we’ll make the other person unhappy or angry.
And not only do we need to fight that discomfort within ourselves — society is also telling us to “stay in our place.” Women are expected to be unselfish, caring, emotionally expressive, and interpersonally sensitive. If we do act “out of role,” the response we get is exaggerated. Self-advocating by women is seen as even more self-promoting, even more aggrandizing, than if a man were to do the exact same behavior.
The social cost of women self-promoting is that they’re less liked, by both men and women. And this is important — because being liked is a powerful tool of persuasion, whether at work, at the neighborhood association, or with your doctor.
So what do we do? How can we successfully advocate for ourselves?
Women Have a Superpower: Advocating for Others
Women have a superpower in this area — advocating for others. We are expected to advocate for others, and we’re more liked when we do so. And research shows we are better at it than men. Women are better at recognizing the value of what both sides bring to the table — which makes it easier to identify a win-win outcome.
So let’s use this superpower to our advantage. Those resources and strengths we use when we go to bat for our friends, family, or co-workers? We can use those resources when going to bat for ourselves.
Self-Advocating: Words of Wisdom
Next time you need to self-advocate, enlist the support of your fans. Ask others to advocate for you (e.g., nominating you for awards, suggesting you as a keynote speaker). Ask your peers to help you craft an effective case. What would they say about you? Resist the urge to tone down their words.
When self-advocating, think about whether you can also make a case for something larger, for the greater good. Position yourself as connected to a group and not just out for yourself. Think personally, act communally.
Remember, what you do for yourself as a self-advocate, and for each other as other-advocates, will impact not just your life/career but the lives/careers of others too, and for generations to come. Advocating for yourself — worthwhile in itself — is still advocating for others!
Lastly, keep this in mind: If you feel discomfort when self-advocating, know that it is caused by gender stereotypes, something outside yourself. And that the feeling is shared by many, many women.
Continue the Conversation with The Humphreys Group
Especially during this pandemic, we need to advocate for ourselves. We need to talk to employers regarding how we can feel safe during the pandemic and find a flexible working situation, and we need to set boundaries with family or friends. Want to continue the conversation about self-advocacy when it comes to your finances? Reach out to our team today.