Last week I had a very tense email exchange with someone. We had a 3-4 email exchange where I expressed my point and then they expressed theirs. Before I go much further there is a quick point to note about me; I don’t read tone in emails or texts and I believe doing so could be harmful. So, in the last email I received back there were words that literally made me Laugh Out Loud. The email read, Don’t Take It Personal. Even as I write this I find myself chuckling because at that moment I realized that only a man would make such a statement. My next thought was let me re-read our exchange, which was brief, to the point with no fluff (not even an emoticon or exclamation). I believe that his thought was that as a woman I have to conduct everything, including my business, in an emotional state. However, that is not true and I am quite opposite; I am logical and analytical and while I use my intuition I also believe in just plain and simple truths and hard facts. Period!
I get over things extremely quickly but something about these words kept creeping into my mind. Partially because an R&B singer by the name of Monica had a song called “Don’t Take it Personal” and I was bopping along to it in my head. But the other reason was because I recently was asked in an interview for the Tennessee Economic Council on Women publication about the differences in the workplace for women and men and what my hopes were for making them better. I realized that this was one of those ‘things’ that a man would say to a women in the workplace and never be challenged about it. I also realized that as women we work too hard on perfection and often take a lot of things personally as opposed to examining the facts and presenting them as such.
These four words brought up some initial thoughts from me, some of which I have shared above and a few more I have shared below. As always please allow me to share what I have learned.
Men and women are different: As much as I really want us to just handle business without gender being a part of the conversation I’m not sure we can. We are built differently and only a man would think our email exchange meant I was having a fussy moment. Aside from our obvious differences there are some other differences like our communication, management, and leadership.
Don’t cry: ‘If you have to cry then you need to go outside’ was the infamous line by fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone on the MTV show Kell on Earth. Guess what, I agree. I understand that some might lean on emotion as a part of the ‘game’ played once we get to the job (or table) but we must understand that we have to get there first. If you want to have an even playing field you have to learn when and when not and how and how not. As a woman in business I believe we deserve a place at the table BUT that becomes harder to advocate for if you are perceived as an emotional basket case before you even get there. (Some) Men already have their perception, let’s prove them wrong.
Listen to your first mind: As a part of the Business Journal’s interview I was asked what advice I would give to the young, professional woman and my answer was “Listen to your first mind.” When I first started my business I would sit at home late at night and analyze every conversation and each decision I made questioning if I had said or done the right things. I would say ‘I should have said that instead’ or ‘I hope when I said xyz they weren’t upset’. Around the top of the second year I made a commitment not to be so hard on myself or take things so personally and that I need to learn to tap into my own self-trust. So this goes for you also, you are trusted by clients and colleagues and you owe it to them to give them wise counsel without second guessing your strong decisions. As an entrepreneur, if you have not already, you will (hopefully) develop a keen sense of intuition; you should allow it to lead you.
Conflict is like a band-aid: The best way to take off a band-aid is quickly. As an entrepreneur sometimes conflict should be handled the same way. Have you ever not said something because you weren’t sure how the other person would respond? It’s not a matter of if but when conflict will happen. As a business owner or middle/senior manager it is important to prepare yourself for tough conversations because it is sometimes the nature of business. Pull quick and allow the sting to subside just as quickly.
While I’m still chuckling as I write, I learned many things in that 10 minute set of moments and here is a quick set of take-away’s; we can all lighten up a little more, men say the darndest things, and of lastly, don’t take so much personally!!
Kia Jarmon is a brand strategist and PR coach with boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency. She speaks, blogs, mentors, and is soon to be an author. You can find more information at her personal brand site, www.KiaJarmon.com.