Politics and Male-Female Differences

On Huffington Post today you’ll find “Is a Female President Only a Pipe Dream” written about the subtle forms of communication that stand between women candidates and the presidency.   Facts about women in congress indicate the extent of the problem in terms of the number of women representing us in the higher echelons of government.  Certainly the problem is not solely one of communication habits that diminish the value of women, but those habits play a part.  We are shaped by our culture, no matter where in the world, and we fool ourselves in the U.S. if we think we have risen above gender issues.  The facts don’t bear this out.  Until we identify forms of disparaging innuendo and subtle, demeaning politics based on gender, bring them out into the open and reveal them as the cheap shots they are, we are not likely to see a female president.  There is no way to rid our culture of differences based on gender.  Differences do exist.  And differences do not mean better or worse.  But using them to ridicule and undermine so that women are not well represented at higher levels of government doesn’t honor those differences.  It manipulates them.  That can be changed if we’re all more vigilant about letting those who stoop to such levels know they are not doing so without notice.

Posted in Bullying, Tutorials for Women | Leave a comment

Are You On The Case Influencing Your Doctor

I published this blog today at Big Think.  It’s about how doctors and patients develop “frames” that guide how they relate to each other and that these frames have a significant impact on healthcare outcomes.  Learn how you might alter your doctor’s responses to you and how you might be contributing to ones that are dysfunctional.


As an extra aside, communication is a lot like chess.  You may have read that here before or in The Secret Handshake.  Every action by one person, including nonverbal, limits or expands the options of the other communicator.  When we walk by someone and say, “How are you?” we are not really asking for a long answer — perhaps not any at all.  We’ve learned that this comment limits the options of the other person if they have been socialized to understand it.  They, in turn, know that their options are limited to a short reply if any is given at all.  Most of how we communicate signals other people to consider their response options based on experience.  If, when we communicate with doctors, or they with us, the response options are limited in ways not conducive to good healthcare, the outcomes suffer.  So, it’s wise to take a good look at how your doctor influences your choices as well as how you may be limiting his or hers.  Does your doctor’s manner of communicating, for example, elicit from you a tendency to agree so as not to cause upset?  Does he or she look into your eyes as if interested in what you have to say?  Or, do you feel rushed and therefore resist saying things that may be important?  These are only a few examples.  Consider how your healthcare is being influenced by communication choices your doctor and you make.  It could save your life.  It could certainly hinder or facilitate wellness.

Posted in Health Issues | Leave a comment

How Good Are You At Marketing Yourself?

With all the information that we take in everyday, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise – so to speak.  And yet unless people know what you contribute at work, all the effort you put in can pass unnoticed and unappreciated.  While loving what you do can be enough at times, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t care if anyone ever knows what they’ve contributed.  Yet, bragging can be very uncomfortable.  Maybe if we called it “self-praise” it wouldn’t seem to gratuitous.  The truth is that it’s important to share what you do, especially at work — and equally important to do so effectively.   There’s no need to pound people over the head with insistent claims of having done amazing things, but when it counts it’s good to know how to share what you’ve done well.  Here are a few thoughts on how to make that happen.  http://bit.ly/1ouhrDT

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Persuasion Shortcut Using The ACE Method

Today’s blog on Big Think, is “A Shortcut to Successful Influence” using the ACE Method, which I originally described in my first book, Persuasion in Practice.  There are a host of skills required to be an effective persuader.  Sometimes we have to take shortcuts in deciding how to present our ideas to others in influential ways.  This blog demonstrates how considering the degree to which people are likely concerned about being appropriate (in terms of rules or what others think), consistent (based on past behavior or what people like you usually say or do) or effective (achieving specific goals) in the selection of an approach can improve your chances of effectively persuading them to at least consider your views.

Posted in "Leaning in" -- Asserting yourself, Confrontation, Influence, Leadership | Leave a comment

Can Politics Be Learned?

I’ve been asked this question many times.  And also about persuasion, which I have studied and taught even longer.  I learned long ago that all the persuasion strategies in the world are useless if you don’t understand the political climate in which they’re being applied.

Probably, the real question being asked is can political skill be improved beyond what is learned as a child.  We know children aren’t born knowing what it means when someone poisons your well at work.  We learn over time that people operate often in their own best interests and when those goals cannot be overtly expressed, they turn to subtle, sometimes damaging, forms of managing others.  As they take hold within a group, these practices become part of the culture.  The ones who created them may leave, but their mark remains.  It then becomes the task of those who follow to figure out how things are done aside from how they’re supposed to be done and to keep track of changes.  That takes study and often learning the hard way.

Mentors can help in the learning process — if they’re adequately skilled at understanding and managing politics.  To help further, I wrote a few books on politics at work, including The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics.  To show how virulent politics can function beneath the surface and because it’s a story I couldn’t get out of my mind, I wrote a fictional account of how politics can usurp an otherwise good environment – Shadow Campus.  Here you see how political operatives work behind the scenes, applying unwritten rules, forcing others to follow them all in the context of academia — but it’s much the same everywhere.  I know because of the years I’ve spent consulting for various types of organizations.

Stories are how we learn much of what we know and so while Shadow Campus is a mystery-thriller, not a how-to about politics, it is a means of learning politics by observing the characters’ attempts to unravel and understand how their political climate functions.

Elizabeth Warren’s stories in her new book, A Fighting Chance, are ways that women, and men, can learn what it takes to deal with negative politics.  There are no step-by-step instructions in the book, but you do get a sense of what it takes to fight against people who are used to working behind the scenes ruining careers, if need be, to get what they want.

At this blog site, you’ll find more on politics.  What to say to whom when, issues of timing, how to identify unwritten rules, using choice points in conversation to turn things around, and more.  There are tutorials for women (see category list in right column) and more. You’ll find blogs not relevant to your interests, but hopefully ones that are helpful in expanding your knowledge of politics or helping your son, daughter, grandchild or someone you’d like to see avoid being blindsided.  Welcome to the blog.  If you have a specific question, send it along in the comments section.  I’d be glad to hear from you. Kathleen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Different Slant on “A Fighting Chance” — A Bracing Dose of Reality for Women

The blog below was published today on the front page of Huffington Post.  Like the war stories blog posted yesterday, on Big Think, it’s about Elizabeth Warren’s new book, A Fighting Chance and why it’s a bracing dose of political reality for women who work, for profit or not, in highly political organizations.

Warren Offers Women a Bracing Dose of Reality

Unlike so many of her Washington colleagues, Senator Elizabeth Warren has developed a hard-won political intelligence without selling her soul.

Nothing in her new book denies that the old boys network got in her way. She doesn’t accuse anyone who experiences its existence of suffering from a feminist hangover. There are no paragraphs about how most men in government have the best interests of women deep in their hearts — no apologist claims that some of her best friends are men.

The Massachusetts senator doesn’t pretend that being a woman has never been an issue for her (with its rich implication that there are no issues unless you’re a troublemaker). Spooning out such happy hogwash isn’t her style.

Instead, Warren shares war stories, which is something that women do far too infrequently. She toils in a snake pit, but she’s learned how to wrench power from venomous opponents, buoyed by extraordinary tenacity and her conviction that she is fighting the right battles.

It has been quite a while since a woman emerged on the national political scene who hasn’t felt compelled to repeatedly remind us that she is a mother, and therefore not as threatening as someone who isn’t. Warren is a mother, but not yours. So if you’re one of the bad guys stealing from the less fortunate, don’t expect to get a pass.

While A Fighting Chance was not written to awaken women to the need for political astuteness, it does have that potential. It’s a trenchant reminder that no matter how nice things may seem early in a career, moving ahead requires competing for ground on playing fields the other guys designed. It means studying your surroundings, seeing what matters and what doesn’t, who gets ahead, how much of your soul you’ll need to sacrifice to do things their way and, in that regard, whether where you work is where you belong.

There must be days when Warren wonders why she keeps fighting a system that is so thoroughly rigged. She could walk away. She reminds us, and herself, of the people who need someone to work on their behalf. She learns the ropes, takes risks, deals with setbacks, gets knocked down and gets back up to fight another day. She’s pugnacious, unafraid of politics and of being labeled.

Read the book once for the truth about how a bunch of groupthink, greedy, power-hungry sharks nearly ruined the country. Then read it to learn how to get around, over and though nasty politics because someday you just may need the lessons.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Women Need To Share More War Stories

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  It’s one of the primary reasons why we’re stuck in the pay inequity, slow-promotion-to-the-top situation that has little to do with whether we have babies or not and more to do with how much we share about the challenges of workplace politics.  I’ll be posting more on this, sharing some of my own war stories.

Check out the category in the right column of this page “Tutorials for Women.” Let’s start sharing more war stories with women at work.  All the hush hush when we help each other needs to fall by the wayside.  It’s time to pass on some war stories because they teach more effectively and are remembered longer than lectures and advice.

Here’s the blog on this posted today at Big Think.

Posted in Confrontation, Politics, Tutorials for Women | Leave a comment

Parkinson’s Patients Make A Huge Difference in Seeking a Cure

Today on Big Think, I posted the blog “Parkinson’s Patients ‘Roar’ On Faster Route to a Cure.”  PD patients are having a louder voice than every before in defining PD, finding treatments and seeking a cure.  Ironically, people with PD often find their voices becoming softer.  It’s a symptom of PD.  But when it comes to increasing what we know about the disease, they are getting louder by the day.  Hope you’ll read the blog and share it with anyone with PD or with those who care about them.

Posted in Health Issues | 1 Comment

David Brooks on Suffering – Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This essay by David Brooks is well worth a read.  We all suffer at times and when we’re fortunate, we learn from that pain.  One of the best lessons I learned in life having breast cancer at age 32 and later on Parkinson’s disease is that there is, more often than not, light at the end of dark tunnels.  Sometimes it’s a matter of believing that the light is there and that can be tough.  No one wants to suffer.  But we all do at some time.  I wouldn’t want to frame Parkinson’s disease as suffering, since there is so much more to the experience.  Yet, in the spirit of Parkinson’s Awareness Month I’m posting David Brook’s article.  No matter your politics, this is a very perceptive, moving and encouraging essay.  We all need that now and again.  Thanks for this one, David. http://nyti.ms/OANt46

Posted in Managing Your Health | Leave a comment

Complementing the Campaign to Banish the Term “Bossy”

Banning of the word “bossy” as it is often used to describe women who take charge is a goal set by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and a worthy one.  If nothing else, attention to the term and its use may diminish its utility.  As a management professor of persuasion, negotiation, politics and communication, I’m pleased to see someone with the visibility Sandberg has take to task words used to derail women’s leadership.  And that’s exactly what such words do.

Early in my persuasion classes, I ask my students how useful a letter from me to one of their potential employers would be were I to describe them as “stubborn.”  Of course, they say it would do more harm than good.  What if, however, I were to describe those same characteristics as “determined,” “persistent,” or “dedicated”?  Ah, yes, those are much better.  They describe the same behaviors in a positive way.  Language is like this.  Words have denotative or dictionary meanings, but also connotative meanings which are attachments we add as groups or culturally.  To change the meaning of a word, both need to be addressed.

“Bossy” is a word that has developed some very negative connotations for women.  A campaign to rid it from our workplace lexicon and elsewhere raises our awareness to its dangers.  But as is explained in Comebacks at Work, written with my co-author Chris Noblet, the important thing is to know how to respond when words like this are used against you. For example, if a colleague or boss refers to you as “bossy,” what should you say?  You could say, “Have you heard of the campaign led by Sheryl Sandberg to get rid of that term due to its sexist overtones?”  That could work in some situations.  Perhaps you’re not comfortable with it.  Perhaps it doesn’t fit your style.  In Comebacks at Work, we explore a range of options for situations like this.  If you defend yourself by saying, “I’m not bossy,” the person who may have been playing gotcha did get you right where he/she wants you to be. Instead, you could say, “I am passionate about this issue.  You should be too,” “That word demeans leadership and I doubt you meant to do that,” or “If you mean I’m being assertive on this issue, you’d be right.  It’s important.”

As Robin Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics emerita at UC Berkeley, explains, the second-wave women’s movement in the 1970s endeavored to change gender relations by changing language.  She writes that the result “is not a happy story.”    If however, you know how to respond to words that demean or discredit, then for your own self, at least, it’s possible to not only deal with “bossy” but to reduce the likelihood that it will be applied to you.

Additionally, knowing how to respond to such put-downs provides a kind of grassroots effort to supplement the one being made by Sandberg and her colleagues.  Chipping away at derogatory terms on a daily basis while highly visible people give attention to their damaging usage is a promising combination.

Posted in "Leaning in" -- Asserting yourself, Bullying, Comebacks, Gotcha!, Unwanted Repetitive Episodes | Leave a comment