Beneath the Surface

As published in Women with Drive
Sponsored by Porsche

By: Helen Mitas

Are you one of those people who seems consistently misunderstood by your colleagues, as well as others around you?

There is a lot of pressure on women in the public eye. You are supposed to manage a dynamic career, live wholesome family lives, have great bodies and always be in control. There is never a time when you are allowed to have a bad hair day. You are expected to appear fresh, fit and dressed impeccably – but what is really going on underneath the surface?

To some, you may appear as though you are distant and intimidating, but in fact your confidence levels are actually quite low, and you consider yourself quite the introvert. Your misconceived aloofness often lands you in many unwanted leadership roles, even though you may not have wanted to build your profile in such a way. Despite this, others tend to see you as a leader and the right person for the job so you regularly ended up as the club President, the MC for the conference, the keynote speaker or the one in charge.

There is logic for their tendency to see you in this light. For many reasons, introverts like you make great leaders. It is proven that introverts work great in groups, are impressive listeners, and contemplate deeply before responding and reacting to situations. Your great preparation of each project or speech you present and the deep analysis involved in creating them is exactly what portrays you to others as the perfect person for these leadership roles.

Most people hate getting up in front of others and doing public speaking and because you can do it, other women look at you as if you are ‘different’. When they look at you, they see someone who presents well and seems super organised but you know it is really just a well-rehearsed performance.

Break the perception barrier

Despite already holding many leadership positions, and presenting fine, you want to become more approachable to your audience and colleagues.

When you present at a conference, event or meeting, allow your real self to shine through. Show that you are a real human being who shares the same emotions as everyone else.

It feels fantastic when you connect with the people around you in a way that’s meaningful for you and for them.

5 steps to breaking the perception barrier:

#1  SMILE at people often and make eye contact, so they can connect with you rather than judge you. Be cognizant of your facial expressions and you will instantly appear more welcoming.

#2  SMALL TALK: Approach your colleagues or members of your audience before and after the event or meeting, even if initially it makes you feel uncomfortable & engage in small talk.

#3  Ask a MEANINGFUL QUESTION: Ask a question that connects with ‘who’ they are as a person such as ‘Tell me about what you most enjoy about your life?”

#4  Use their FIRST NAME often! Saying their name aloud the moment you meet helps you remember.

#5  Tell them you LOVED CONNECTING with them.

When you encourage connection, your confidence will build as well!

With all the judgement coming from society in general and the pressure for journalists and reporters to present women in stereotypical ways, you need the support and friendship of your female peers. Get to know them, and be honest about your introvert personality. Society’s expectations often force introverts to develop extroverted personality traits in social situations, and may never have been able to guess that you gregarious and outgoing spoken co-worker actually craves time alone to re-energise.

Forming a bond through this might allow you to forge a great relationship that benefits both of you. You will certainly enjoy your leadership role a whole lot more!

Helen Mitas


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