These are the times that try men’s souls and shut down women if they they try to speak up or speak out. With the recent silencing of Elizabeth Warren, I knew I needed to reach out to Deborah Shames, author of Own the Room: How Women Can Become Engaging, Memorable and Fearless Speakers to weigh in on this critical time for women... and for all of us.
G: Deborah, you launched a book in the New Year. Is Out Front like your other book, Own the Room, a manual for presenting and speaking better, or did you write it for another reason?
S: With Out Front, I’m on a mission to give women practical tools to advance their careers and become persons of influence. For example, when I saw Elizabeth Warren shut down recently by Republican Mitch McConnell-- who pulled out arcane Rule XIX, I thought; “we have to have more strength and power from women leaders, especially now, when so much is on the line.”
G: Do you think that better verbal skills would have changed that particular outcome?
S: Not in this one instance. But changing the course of our Government is playing the long game. It means that every encounter is critical and quite public. What is said and done will be reported on and remembered. So yes, in time, when we join the “resistance”, when we are prepared and when we speak with commitment and passion, we can change the course of history.
G: That’s a trait I’ve noticed in you over the years. You really have passion for urging clients, especially women, to speak with authenticity and commitment. I noticed that’s a cornerstone of your book Out Front.
S: Absolutely. Women have to get past the “being liked” hurdle. Who cares? Trump is universally disliked, and could care less. It crippled Hillary, and became a nail in her political coffin.
G: So, do you think that Hillary could have changed the outcome of the Presidential election through speaking?
S: Yes, I do. Hillary was afraid to show her true personality, which meant she was vulnerable to whatever the Republicans said about her.
What fueled the “untrustworthy” label was her being overly careful not to say the wrong thing, and then apologizing when she was criticized. Trump never apologized, and he has plenty to apologize for. This was a horse race where perception is reality.
G: I want to talk about your book. This seems to be a much more personal book than your last. Why did you take that approach?
S: I encourage my readers to step up and speak out with courage. I felt out of integrity if I didn’t do the same as an author. So I wrote about my fears, challenges, and career struggles. I also took on the critical inner voices that hold women back.
G: Be specific. How do women hold themselves back?
S: We strive to be perfect, which causes stress and a hesitation to speak out. We fear being criticized. We self-monitor, creating weak presenters. We play it safe, and leave out anything controversial or what we believe. And we doubt our own abilities and qualities far too much. Recently, I was in a room with twenty young managers of a non-profit, and it was maddening. Each one apologized before doing her exercise, stopped mid-way through, doubting what she said, and capped that with uptalk—which made her sound even more uncertain and unprofessional. It hardened my resolve and my mission.
G: What can women expect to take away from Out Front?
S: They will gain the confidence to take risks. They will learn practical skills to become proficient, and then masterful public speakers or communicators. And they will hopefully realize that they can make a difference in the world, just by speaking out.
G: Thank you Deborah and I not only speak for all the women I know, but also all the men I know. We are after all in this together.