What Do You Do?
What Do You Do?
One day, my 24-year old daughter came home from a business meeting asking for advice I couldn’t give. She had met with her new boss and a contractor who needed to pass on some of his work to my daughter because he no longer had the time for it. He was a bit older than her. He proceeded to “mansplain” concepts she already understood because she has been doing this work for almost 5 years. She wanted to tell him they could skip over what he was talking about and get to the discussion about how to transition the work, but she couldn’t get a word in edgewise. She didn’t know what to do. At home, she was upset and said, “Mom, I felt like I didn’t have a good choice. I could keep quiet or I could interrupt and be seen as a rude and uppity millennial. So I kept quiet. What do you do?” I had no answer. I’m 50 years old and I still have no answer.
Hillary Clinton’s most recent bookcalls out one particular moment during the 2016 election that will be seared in my mind forever. It was during one of the debates, and her opponent was looming over her and following her around the stage like a guard in a basketball game. My skin crawled and I wondered why she didn’t say something.
This is how she describes it:
“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye, and say loudly and clearly, back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me, so back up.”
I wish she had said it out loud. I think most of us have been in “what do you do” moments and it’s really hard to make that call on the fly in moments of intense stress or scrutiny. But I think this is a discussion that really needs to happen, beforewe are caught in the moment. When I think about the times that I felt satisfied with my behavior and my performance, they are always the moments where I had the opportunity to practice. Having a safe space, real or virtual, where we can test out different approaches, get honest feedback, or even rant to a supportive group before getting back to work can make all the difference.
Now, when she knows she has a complex discussion coming up, my daughter sits down with me or other trusted advisors and practices what she wants to get across. She thinks through possible scenarios and gives herself time to have all the emotional responses in the safety of home instead of in front of an intimidating audience. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure makes us more confident. It’s a way to hit pause in advance and give ourselves a chance to develop a toolbox of skills that we can call on as needed. Just knowing that we have some solutions up our sleeves can help us maintain our composure AND articulate what we want to get across. I don’t want my daughter or any other woman to ever have to choose between worrying that she will appear pushy or keeping quiet. Neither of those are good choices. Creating safe practice spaces can open up more and better options for “what do you do” moments.