Women often complain that their ideas aren’t “heard.” Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said that even when she spoke at meetings, her ideas were often ignored, then a man in the meeting would repeat what she had said almost verbatim and everyone would applaud and tell him he’d made a brilliant point! If it happens to one of the most powerful women in the US, it’s no surprise it happens to other women.
As women, we often feel our words somehow don’t have the same weight as the words spoken by our male counterparts. Many women tell me about experiences at meetings where they made an important point or came up with a new idea only to have it ignored. But when the same point was later picked up by a male co-worker, everyone listened. “Men only seem to listen to men, no matter what we say,” they tell me.
So, what does it mean to you to “put ideas on the table”?
What Men Do
For men, putting ideas on the table means presenting a finished product, and clearly stating a plan.
What Women Do
For women, putting ideas on the table means the beginning of a conversation. The objective is to get suggestions and input, not just state a plan. Women see it as a way to get a dialogue going.
When we talk about feeling dismissed by men, many women mention this scenario: “I state an idea. Everyone ignores me and then a man restates it and everyone loves it!” “Tabling an idea” is the classic situation where this happens. Women think the objective is to get the dialogue going. We try to be inclusive of everyone’s opinions and to encourage collaboration. But when we do this, men think we are uncertain, unprepared, or unconvinced. They therefore reframe a woman’s idea to clarify what was meant, to nail it down.
This situation leaves us feeling resentful, and men feeling bewildered. As one man explained, “One of my female colleagues didn’t seem convinced of an idea she put forward at a meeting. I thought it was a great idea. I restated it to support her. And her reaction was that I stole her idea! I don’t get it.” Women’s inclusive style comes across to men as hesitancy. Men conclude that women lack confidence. When men state rather than suggest ideas, women feel men aren’t interested in their opinions and women conclude that men are controlling.
Women can avoid feeling that our ideas are stolen, with a simple strategy. We can say, “I’ve thought this idea through, I’m clear on what I want to do but I want your input.” By stating our intentions this way, we “frame” our ownership of an idea.
Bottom line – we can thrive in a masculine environment without changing who we are. If you would like more tips on how to do just that, then download my free Magnetic Influence Litmus Test where I share 4 simple questions you can ask yourself to predict your ability to influence, and how to gain that influence.