Finding Middle Ground

Passive vs. Aggressive: Is There a Middle Ground?

Consider the following scenario, where two very different women are present in a meeting with others. You’ll probably relate to knowing both types of women…

Beth is as quiet as a mouse. She does have comments and ideas that she’d like to contribute, but she decides that it is best not to ruffle any feathers; therefore, she remains silent. In fact, no one really notices Beth is even there.

Jen always speaks her peace, whether she’s at home, in a meeting, or out with the girls. She doesn’t mince any words, and she’s certainly not worried about rocking the boat. At times, the things she’s said have led to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Everyone notices Jen, but not always for the right reasons.

Middle Ground…Does it Exist?

“There is no evidence that ‘acting like a lady’ does anything except make women more well-liked. Women with ultra-feminine traits, in fact, are still seen as less competent in traditional managerial settings.”

-Olivia A. O’Neill, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology

Can women find a middle ground? Can “ladylike” and “leader-like” ever really meet? That depends on who you ask.

Marianne Cooper, lead researcher for the infamous book Lean In, writes, “If a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she ‘should’ behave.”

Moreover, asserts Cooper, terms like “Ice Queen” and “Ballbuster” show how awkward powerful women still make us feel. “In fact,” she suggests, “we often don’t really like them.”

An interesting study from Stanford GSB offers another perspective. The study found that women who are aggressive, assertive, and confident – but who know how to turn such traits on or off

Be authentic and adaptable

depending on the circumstance they’re in – actually get more promotions than either men or other women.

The study also noted that women high in what are considered to be “masculine” traits – aggressiveness, assertiveness, and confidence – were also able to “self-monitor” their behavior. These women were outstanding chameleons, able to assess social situations and adapt to their environment effectively.

Moreover, so-called “masculine” women who were high self-monitors fared well professionally, receiving 3 times as many promotions as masculine women who were low self-monitors. This demonstrates that masculine behavior by itself does not equal success.

Be Authentic to Find Your Own “Middle Ground”

There is no single formula to help you embody the perfect blend of masculine and feminine traits. Even if there were, it would vary based on the circumstances you’re in, as the study above indicated.

Your best bet? Be authentic – and adaptable. Practicing authenticity will help you stay aligned with the values that matter most to you, while being adaptable will allow you to bring out the best traits needed in a given situation.

Here are five more simple tips:

  1. Be assertive. If you want to be taken seriously, make sure your words – and actions – have conviction. Just remember not to slip into egotistical behavior during a moment of low self-esteem.
  2. Practice awareness. Know – and lead from – your strengths. Honestly identify your weaknesses, especially ones that are affecting your confidence levels, and make an effort to overcome them.
  3. Stay connected. Whether you’re leading a large organization or have just started a small business, make sure you’re connecting with people at all levels. Be accessible, communicate clearly, and demonstrate genuine interest in others.
  4. Remember that you can’t please everyone. Leaders cannot be liked by every single person, all the time. It just doesn’t happen that way. There will be times when your confidence is tested – accept it and give yourself the space you need before responding to the situation.
  5. Display confidence. Build healthy levels of confidence to give you the strength to take on challenging but manageable projects, which will allow you to accomplish new goals. Plus, confidence will pull you out of your comfort zone and help you gain the momentum you need to soar to new heights.

If you want to learn simple, easy tips to boost your self-confidence, don’t miss my FREE confidence e-series! Sign up here, or connect with me anytime!

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