What do I mean by ‘nice’ girl conditioning? Well, it’s the conditioning we get as children from our parental upbringing, schooling and societies stereotypes.
Do you remember when you were small being told to:
Be a good girl
Put others first
To be humble
Not to ‘blow your own trumpet’
Not to disagree or upset people
Respect your elders and betters?
Good manners are important and understandably something to teach your children. But, add to that the focus on girls at school to be well behaved, achieve good results and fit in. Also, stereotypically in society women are expected to demonstrate soft and nurturing behaviours and a leader is seen as a strong, direct white male.
The result is a lot of women internalise this guidance as subconscious beliefs they must adhere to. Then, throughout our experiences in life, we look for evidence to reinforce our beliefs.
It’s not surprising then that women can find it uncomfortable to speak up for their opinions and needs. To challenge senior managers and to share their successes.
How do you know if you’ve got ‘nice girl’ conditioning?
Do you recognise yourself in any of these statements?
I often doubt myself and worry I’m not good enough for the job
I find it hard to disagree with senior partners/bosses/managers
I find it uncomfortable to ask for help
I work harder than my colleagues to ensure I deliver to a very high standard
I would hate to have to promote myself and share successes
I don’t speak up unless I’m sure I’m right
I try to say what I think others want to hear
I avoid confrontation
These are just a few of the types of behaviour that being a ‘nice girl’ can drive.
In a lot of situations, the behaviours of a ‘nice girl’ are our strengths – friendships, nurturing a family, building relationships at work. However, in a lot of workplace cultures, they can be a ball and chain that holds you back.
If this sounds like you, then understanding where you’ve picked up these behavioural beliefs from is a start.
Then clarifying exactly what your beliefs are. Is it that you should put others first or that you shouldn’t talk about your achievements. Or that you should respect your elders and betters?
When your beliefs see the light of day, it can be enough to loosen their power over you. If not, try challenging them with evidence that they are false.
Changing your behaviours is likely to feel uncomfortable. Challenge yourself to take one small step, away from those old beliefs, at a time.
You could set an intention to ask a clarifying question if you disagreed with your manager. Or, to research and learn about the skill of assertiveness.
Finally, remember that being a ‘nice girl’ is part of who you are. It’s not about changing yourself. It’s about finding a different mindset or communication style that is the best fit for the situation.
In my new book GOOD ENOUGH there is a whole chapter on ‘nice girl’ conditioning. If you’d like to find out more, go to www.goodenoughcareer.co.uk and you can preorder your copy!