This article appears in Huffpost.
When you give away your power it robs you of your intrinsic strength. Yet, it’s likely there are times in business when you’ve given people and circumstances power over you. Recognizing where you’ve given away your power is the first step in reclaiming it.
You can own your actions and reactions, and positively shift the dynamic of any given situation. Here’s a look at 3 ways women entrepreneurs unknowingly give away their power and how to reclaim it.
1. You’re hesitant to communicate with confidence
Communicate early and often. This is a rule of thumb that many successful female entrepreneurs live by. When you set the scope and communicate the pace, you invite others to run alongside you (i.e. collaborate) —not in front or behind.
Your ability to communicate succinctly, confidently and definitively with clients, customers, partners and employees will set the tone for every interaction. “Good communication means saying just enough […] Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email.”
For example, as young women we tend to preface conversations with “I feel like.” As New York Times writer Molly Worthen notes, “When you use the phrase ‘I feel like,’ it gives you an out […] it’s an effort to make our ideas more palatable to the other person.”
In business, people are less concerned with what you feel, and desire to tap into what you know! This is especially true in the realm of contract negotiations, sales pitches, joint ventures and business activities that require you to be a confident persuader.
Become a more confident communicator by accepting the value of your offering, your competence to deliver results and a maintain a positive perception of those you can help.
2. You need permission from a committee of ‘they’
In many aspects of business, “permission neither desired nor required” is perfectly okay. When you seek approval and permission from others – especially those unqualified to give it – you slowly give away your personal power. You no longer feel comfortable actively making decisions, pivoting through the highs and lows of outcomes and managing results. After all, “what would they say about it?”
It’s empowering when people believe in us, cheer us on, and make us feel valuable. It can even seem debilitating when they don’t. Yet, don’t become so approval-dependent and permission-driven that you derive your worth and value from what others think and distrust your own instincts.
Setting boundaries is a common challenge for many female entrepreneurs. Master Life Coach and author of Girl Code, Cara Alwill Leyba recalls, “A few years ago, I was way too insecure and way too worried about what other people thought of me to dare ask for what I wanted – even the things that involved a base level of respect. This got me thinking about the way so many of us live. The behavior we accept from others is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves.”
What people do or don’t do doesn’t determine your capability or value. The permission and acceptance you crave starts with you – own it. “Realize you have that power. It truly changes everything.”
3. You overlook the gain in every ‘loss’
When someone walks away from a business deal, deliberately wrongs you, or even makes hurtful comments about you or your business, you need to learn to shake it off. When you know your worth, the only thing you lose is those that don’t. And that’s not a loss at all.
As human beings, we are wired to avoid loss. Generally, we hate to lose. Studies suggest, “We would rather choose not to lose over gaining the same thing. In other words, the negative feelings coming from the loss are much stronger than the positive ones coming from the gain.” But often, a loss is accompanied with a gain of equal or greater benefit. This is a mental blind spot. There is always something to gain from every perceived loss in business.
For example, in one of my companies, a vendor attempted to raise rates mid-year (outside of annual contract negotiations). This inconvenient decision to back out of our rate lock could easily have been viewed as a major setback. However, I perceived the opportunity.
Instead of continuing to work with an unreliable vendor, I immediately began vetting other partners on our short-list. Not only did we shift 100% of our interests, but we gained a new reliable partner and contract that was far superior to the one we previously held. I couldn’t control the dishonorable dealings of that vendor, but I could control the outcome. That loss, ultimately became our gain.
Reclaim your power
Perhaps you perceive the business world in a way that is giving away your power? When you perceive the actions of others hold you back, control your outcomes or don’t provide the support you need … you give away your power.
It’s never too late to take back your power. In business, you can’t always control how others engage with you, but you can control how you respond to them.
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