In the Woody Allen movie “Another Woman,” Gena Rowlands portrays “an accomplished philosophy professor who, upon turning 50, feels compelled to take emotional stock of her life… Suddenly her quest for truth turns into a powerful and personal odyssey of self-examination, discovery and acceptance.”
Her journey progresses through classic Allen vignettes in which she discovers her ambiguous nature and learns the direct truth about how people perceive her. With each vignette, she becomes more conscious about her disconnect with her persona. Through the variety of exchanges she has with family members and friends, she slowly evolves into “another woman,” overcoming ambiguity (a courage obstacle) manifesting the truth of her inner essence.
What’s this have to do with the workplace? Recall the last time you directly confronted someone at work with an uncomfortable but consequential truth you had been avoiding. Overcoming these obstacles requires backbone (and bottomless courage) to overcome ambiguity and confront uncomfortable truths, especially about ourselves. But, if you step up your courage consciousness, before long, you will notice that people respond to you in a different way. Somehow, they recognize that you are real, accessible and centered in an energy called courage consciousness.
One man wrote to me: “I have noticed that when I speak from my heart and not just from my head, the message gets through more clearly and with more effect. I usually don’t say anything unless I feel moved to do so. Sometimes this works well, but other times I do have the regret that I didn’t speak up. I have to do better about recognizing whether what I want to say is from the head or the heart!”
Notice when your voice fades, then start to monitor the missed opportunities from a swallowed voice.
If you are not stepping up, you are probably sliding back into the old habits and scripts that have prevented your growth all along, perpetuating obstacles like ambiguity. People know the power of truthfulness; they know when they give direct answers or confront a truth, they release positive energy, no matter how difficult that truth may be to accept. This verve is the backbone of courage, the opposite of the ambiguity that sets in when people are afraid to confront an uncomfortable truth.
Do you mince words or tell it like it is?
A woman I will call Sue had the courage to confront an uncomfortable truth when a male co-worker let slip that he was earning a certain salary. They had equal responsibilities and experience; yet Sue was taking home $10,000 less. Sue summoned the courage to make a chart comparing the job descriptions and approximate salaries. Approaching her boss in a factual, non-emotional manner, she declared that her salary was not comparable to her male counterpart. She immediately got a raise.
Are you willing to ask the questions necessary to confront an uncomfortable truth, or are you afraid of the outcome? “Truth-tellers are considered dangerous,” writes Phyllis Chesler In Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman. “They do not play the game: they blow the whistle on it.” In the above example, Sue had the same goals as her male colleague, and her courageous approach eliminated ambiguity.
Like painting or editing a book, centering on your courage is not an exact science. The secret is to understand how to use the energy of the different courage action skills and recognize that what you say and do creates and defines your world. Chesler says, “It is important to encourage women to express what they think and feel directly, openly, in the here-and-now. Women will learn that doing so will not kill anyone and that truth-telling does not have to lead to female disapproval or rejection.”
Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert. She is a sought after speaker and coach who has found that there is a direct correlation between your success quotient and your courage quotient. She has written numerous books including COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman, the follow-up book The COURAGE Difference at Work:: A Unique Success Guide for Women and non-gender FACE IT! 12 Courageous Actions that Bring Success at Work and Beyond.
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