I’m so excited about this topic I feel like I can’t write fast enough. Women have been asking me about how to be softer without getting walked all over. It’s a topic that is close to my heart. I struggled with this one for years.
As women we face two big dilemmas: how do we maintain our softness and still be successful in the business world; and how do we maintain good boundaries and still be soft in our personal relationships?
Let’s look at softness at work and in the next ezine issue, we’ll look at it in our relationships.
Soft yet Powerful at Work
I posed the question of how to maintain softness in the business world to my spiritual teacher and here’s what she shared with me.
Women need to always maintain their softness in order to feel connected and in harmony with themselves. When we are soft and feminine we are able to receive and therefore give back. It’s our nature. We’re fluid.
Men’s nature is to compete. They’ve done studies that show when you put men into a new group they will compete for the leadership role. Once the leader emerges then the men settle down.
When women are in a new group we are uncomfortable if one person emerges as a leader. We want to include everyone. To encourage everyone to communicate and share.
Being soft means we are feminine and vulnerable. So how can you be soft, feminine and vulnerable without also appearing weak?
You can’t go out into the business world and be too soft and mushy. You’ll get stepped on and smushed.
Why Acting Like a Man Backfires
Where we as women get into trouble in the business world is when we act like men – too hard, too tough, too unemotional. That behavior has a negative impact. It brings out competitive behavior in men and then they treat us like men. Men during competition can be pretty rough. Women who get treated roughly by men, usually don’t like how it feels. I never liked it.
Another negative impact of a woman acting like a man is the possible surfacing of any unresolved mother or sister issues. If a man doesn’t like his mother or sister – look out. That dislike, anger or hurt could get thrown at you.
I want to add a qualifier here. Advanced men – men with advanced souls – also don’t like being treated roughly by other men, or women acting like competitive men. Just the other day I heard from a man who had been constantly yelled at and criticized by an angry woman boss. He quit his job rather than deal with her behavior for another day. Congratulations!
How To Be
We can however take some hints from the Asian cultures and Goddess studies. Offer suggestions. Be the wise goddesses we are. Gently steering where we want to go, not forcing or controlling the direction. Allowing others to see your idea, your vision. Giving them the space and time to be with the idea.
I’m not saying to give away your power. Exactly the opposite – reclaim your true power.
A true leader is aware of the impact of their behavior and is willing to adjust their style for the sake of productivity, peace, and the benefit of the group.
If we act as women – soft and fluid – and offer suggestions, then the male is disarmed. He isn’t in a competitive role and his ego isn’t engaged. Then you will be treated as a woman. That allows us to be appropriately soft. Not vulnerable. Wise and fluid.
Client Example – Jane
Let me give you an example. One of my clients, Jane, is a successful executive at a finance firm. She works for a male partner who is extremely bright, successful and unfortunately has a big ego. That ego controls him, and he always has to be right. The challenge Jane faced was that her boss is sometimes wrong. And those miscalculations can cost their clients millions of dollars.
One day Jane saw he made a huge mistake. She confronted him and told him his decision was wrong. Well you can imagine how that went over. He was furious. Nasty, mean and condescending to her.
She called me from the office ready to quit. I talked to her and let her have a safe place to vent. Then she felt better, pulled herself together and went back to work.
In our next session we talked about how to more effectively deal with her boss. Jane didn’t want to end up being upset all the time, and she realized that the confrontational approach didn’t work with him. She also realized she wasn’t going to change him. His success had gone to his head, and he was an ego dominated individual.
Jane also realized that she had to speak up because he needed her insight and expertise to do the right thing for their clients.
We looked at how men hate to be wrong, how that engages their ego. And then they have to defend their position. From that place it’s difficult to help them see how to do something differently.
We also looked at when Jane was too aggressive (a man would have been considered assertive, women are considered aggressive) this man became very competitive and threw his success in her face.
After helping Jane get back in touch with her wise, soft self she came up with some strategies for making suggestions to him. She practiced calmly explaining her thoughts and concerns – without making him wrong. She had to quiet her own ego that had gotten upset at his treatment of her. It wasn’t personal. He just couldn’t stand being wrong.
The next day Jane used her new perspective of softness and openness to disarm him. She made her suggestions, and guess what? He was completely open to hearing what she said. He actually thanked her for showing him a unique approach to the problem and explaining the downside of his approach.
Ego and its Positions
Here’s something to understand – once the mind takes a position, the ego is engaged. And once the ego is engaged, the mind has to defend the position. So if you offer suggestions, if you don’t take a position yourself, then the other person’s competitive ego doesn’t get engaged. And the environment is less stressful for everyone.
There was a time in the 60’s and 70’s where women had to fight their way to make it in a man’s world. Can you believe we couldn’t even vote until 1920? That still sends me through the roof. Then we had to fight for that basic right.
Now we can change the rules and be more successful, with less stress and be truer to our natures.
Soft, gentle, feminine, kind, firm and wise.
Goddesses of Wisdom and Power
The Goddess Sophia is the Goddess of Wisdom; Lilith is the Goddess of Power. Take some time to learn about the Goddesses and get in touch with those parts of yourself.
Less advanced men have always been afraid of a woman’s power. Be gentle and wise with them. You are wiser and can adapt to disarm them.
More advanced male souls learn to love and thrive around a woman who is not afraid to show her feminine self and live from her feminine power.
Know which kind of man you’re working with and choose to be the wise goddess.
You are a Divine Feminine Goddess. Choose to think, feel and be one.
imagine the possibilities….
© Carol Chanel
Q & A
From Linda, a 27-year-old architect in Chicago
Q: Carol, I work in a mostly male environment. However I report to a woman who is the most aggressive, nasty person I’ve ever worked for. She obviously worked her way up through the company and thinks that being nasty is the way to get and stay ahead. She’s mean, cold, has no personal life and is only tolerated because she generates so much business for our company.
I don’t want to end up like her. I’m engaged and am close to my family. How can I be successful and not turn into a nasty, mean woman?
A: Linda, in the past, the way women got ahead was to be more aggressive than men. That’s because women weren’t taken seriously and had to fight to get ahead.
The rough road has been paved. Some behavior that was required in the past is no longer necessary. So just based on that you won’t turn out the same. It’s a different time now. And you are a different person.
You can do your work, create works of art and function, generate business, and still be a woman. Soft, gentle, firm, kind and wise. Draw good boundaries, don’t let people cross them, be kind yet firm. Offer suggestions.
Look at what your boss does that you like and follow her lead on those things. You already know what doesn’t work.
Most importantly watch the impact of your behavior on the people you work with. Never make the task more important than the people. After all, the people do the tasks. If they’re not happy, the productivity of the company will suffer.
Linda, when you go home at night, be thankful that you aren’t your boss. You have a great life. Stay balanced. Be true to your values and priorities. Your boss is probably living her life by her unconscious choice. Your choice is conscious.
Let me know how you’re progressing with the company. I believe you’ll actually be more successful than your boss.
Creating a Softness Reminder
One of the things we rely on in coaching is encouraging clients to have something in front of them that reminds them of what they want to focus on.
I would like you to take something to work that represents softness, yet is also strong. Maybe it’s a flower. When you see it, you will think of the soft flower growing on the strong stem.
Maybe it’s a goddess card, or something pink, a ball that feels soft when you squeeze it, a feather, or a fragrant spray that smells lovely. Maybe you want to keep a yoga book or yoga cards to remind you to stretch and be flexible.
Have something that will remind you to be soft; and reminds you of the power of being soft and feminine.
“There is nothing stronger in the world than tenderness.” Han Suyin
Be tender with yourself and others.
I teach people to overcome the obstacles that keep them stuck yet longing for romantic relationships, more self-confidence and inspiration to accomplish their dreams.
We sometimes forget what it feels like to live from our hearts and souls. We forget the thrill of taking the brakes off and flying. Life is dull if we just live from our minds.
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