By Leah Bonvissuto, Founder, PresentVoices
Most venture capitalists are men—and most funding goes to male-owned start-ups. But does that mean you have to speak “like a man” to succeed?
Let’s get real. We are not men. We do not communicate like them; we do not lead like them. And yet, nearly every example of successful leadership leaves women out of the equation. We are told to speak up, stand up and negotiate forcefully. We’re called out when we don’t act like men—but often as not are deemed “too aggressive” when we do.
It’s a lose-lose situation, and none of us will feel confident in our communication style until we feel true ownership over it.
But here’s what we know about the ways women communicate: We tend to have more empathy than men and often serve as better listeners—two incredibly powerful skills. Still, many of us are never taught how to communicate in a way that leverages either of them.
Here, we focus on communication tools we already own as a way to build our personal power. Note that these tools are to be practiced, not perfected. Aim to start small and in a safe space.
You may be an expert multi-tasker, but clear, confident communication requires you to be fully present. Practice doing one thing at a time—say, giving your full attention to your bank teller or setting a date for an upcoming meeting and sticking to it. Practicing presence will help you acknowledge unconscious behaviors that aren’t serving you so you can direct your attention where you want it to go.
Great leaders are empathic—listening and collaborating are learned behaviors which should be harnessed and celebrated. Practice maintaining eye contact with people you’ve just met. Hold space instead of jumping in with suggested solutions. Vulnerability is a muscle—practice it and you will soon get more comfortable in the discomfort, allowing you to make more meaningful connections.
Speaking confidently about our passions does not come naturally to many of us. Land your thoughts with conviction instead of letting them trail off. Record yourself to listen for question marks and replace them with affirmatives. Literally take up more space. Making powerful verbal and physical choices changes the way you interact with the world—and the way the world interacts with you.
Doing anything for the first time takes patience and self-compassion so be kind to yourself! You are changing lifelong, ingrained behaviors, after all.
An award-winning theater director, Leah Bonvissuto has helped hundreds of people tell stories on stages of all shapes and sizes. Leah pulls from the worlds of theater, mindfulness and movement to help people feel confident and in control of their communication.