threadwalker: (Default)
Do ladies only get to choose from passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive? Why must the connotations of "asking for something without backing down" be negative? Why is assertive translated as either aggressive or passive-aggressive to men?

a field situation and some field feedback )
threadwalker: (Default)
It went well.

Actually, I got to enjoy a "woman only" environment. And I mean "enjoy". I don't work with many women and the ones I work with are usually on the opposite end of an issue, so it's rarely "enjoyable".

On Day 2 I found myself realizing I am the target of lots of assumptions. Normally I deal with male-oriented assumptions and after a life-time of those they pretty much wash past me because I've heard it a million times. Man-based assumptions have to do with assessing my role and what kind of tool or obstacle I will be for them: I'm the note taker, the coffee maker, the road block, etc.

Apparently women (the Big A's anyway) look at me and judge my character. They assume that I feel confident, I don't trash-talk myself, that I have some sort of internal well-spring of strength that prevents me from ever doubting myself.

Oh dear, I've been miss-billed. Who wrote THAT script?

It went something like this:

We talked about how to take a compliment. The comment she made was that Big A's automatically deflect the compliment (more discussion on how we do that). She then suggested that Little A's accept compliments and even agree; they don't deflect or doubt themselves. Everyone looked at me and I had the "are you nuts???" look on my face. So I took the stage, so to speak.

If you didn't know me before 1997, then you don't know how radically different I am now. Before 1997 I never said "no", I had the disease to please, I naively believed that if I followed the rules and worked hard that I would be rewarded, I was an obedient daughter who became an obedient college student and an obedient employee. I feared confrontation and had to become physically angry in order to disagree with someone. I had to change in order to survive and I shared that in-depth with the class. I explained in detail how I was driven to the point of self-destruction and I had to make a choice: believe what I was being told or disbelieve what I was being told and change. I changed. I told the class about the self-awakening confrontation with my boss where I calmly told him to "fuck off".

The entire group was overwhelmed. I was describing them when I was telling them how passive I was. I was describing them when I was telling them how I was treated like a doormat. They actually cheered and clapped when I told them the "fuck off" part. (And there I was concerned that I was going to upset them with foul language). The teacher was a pro and thanked me for opening up, then said, "That's right ladies. When a Little A snaps, watch out." She took the talk in a really positive direction and used my tale as a cautionary.

Me? I got up and walked out. I was vibrating inside and had this ball of energy which I needed to walk off. It's hard to talk about that period in my life without reacting. What AMAZED me was all the hugging. The teacher followed me outside, thanked me for sharing, said a few insightful things, and gave me a hug. I race walked around the hotel for a few minutes and then hit the bathroom to wash my hands (water is very calming, too). This coincided with the break and as these women who are essentially strangers came into the bathroom, which is a somewhat intimate environment with dim lights and soft music, they thanked me. Several of them introduced themselves, thanked me for opening up, hugged me, had tears in their eyes, and more than one said that my story was helping them because they were at their own cross-roads of change.

What struck me was that men would never do that. Neh-VER! I don't think aggressive Little A's would have thanked/hugged in the bathroom either. They would have probably high-fived me and given some ass-kicking pointers.

I am mulling this over. There is something really special about the Big A's that I hadn't really connected with before. I'm still digesting it, but I think the world needs Big A's. And it's not that I think the Big A's should stay passive; whether you're passive, assertive or aggressive you're still the same person at your core. It's about balance, perspective, warmth/coolness; teams are stronger if there's a mix that within itself can respect each others strengths.

The rest of the day was spent on communication techniques. While my Big A sisters were practicing saying "no", I was practicing "no" without actually using the word "no". I got to be the person that they had to confront in our small group exercises; I took too much enjoyment in throwing them curveballs. And we watched a GREAT video on how men and women communicate, how they hear and react to the way the other gender speaks, etc. The speaker highlighted the Boy and Girl Scout Oaths.

Boys: I will do my duty.
Girls: I will try.

I think I'm a hybrid in this area and I figure it's because I work and generally live in the world of man-speak. But more on that later. I also got a book on body language and communication. Muh-ha-ha... Soon I shall take over the world...One gesture at a time. LOL
threadwalker: (Default)
I spent 8 hours in an Assertiveness training class for women. I was EXHAUSTED by the time we were done.

At the outset the teacher said something like, "Take this sticky note. If you need to become more assertive, put a capital letter "A" on it. If maybe you've been told you're too aggressive or you need to take the edges off, put a little "a" on it. Put your sticky on the board."

So in this fashion we anonymously communicated to the teacher what her audience was looking for and I happily discovered that the class could accomodate me; otherwise she would have never done that little exercise, right? yay.

Unfortunately, I was the only little "a" out of 17 attendees. I've never been so completely a foreigner in a foreign land.

These women didn't know how to say, "no".
They suffer, "The disease to please."
These women don't know how to establish boundaries.
These women would rather keep silent instead of disagreeing in a meeting because they fear (!!) creating tension and confrontation.
These women would never give someone else feedback on their behavour/performance.
They said they would rather withdraw into themselves rather than provide suggestions in a work environment because of the risk of being wrong.
They don't make direct eye contact.

I was uncomfortable and possibly in a state of shock all day. My brain was exhausted by trying to see through their eyes. Of course, my knee jerk reaction was to tell them, "Are you guys nuts? Tell that asshole "Hell to the no" and get on with your lives." Fortunately for one and all, I restrained myself and kept my Type-A, assertive, direct behaviour in check all day, which was also exhausting.

I talked to the teacher at lunch because I was concerned about what I was going to get out of this seminar. If I wasn't going to get anything, I could drop out, save myself $10/day in BART tix, and entertain myself at home. So I outed myself, "I'm your Little A." She laughed. We chatted. Apparently I'm now a teaching aid, she asked that I share with the class, and she spent at least half an hour recommending stuff for me and forecasting which parts of the seminar I would probably get the most from.

So I'm hanging in. I started sharing my strategies and techniques after lunch. 17 pairs of eyes were on me because I was the oddity. During exercises the 5 at my table started practicing their assertiveness techniques on me, which was weird once I realized that all of them were practicing on me. I felt like I was the man-eating tiger and they wanted to see if they could meet my eyes without flinching. I worked super-hard on not lashing my tail or showing fangs. LOL. I also worked at not judging them based on their shyness; at trying to see the world through their eyes and emotional hang-ups. I wonder if the other tables feel cheated out of their own "Little A Assertiveness Practice Partner". Every now and then I'd look up from our group and ladies at other tables would be watching me.

I definitely felt like a foreigner in a foreign land.

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August 2014

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