Believe it or not, there’s a great way to both highlight your competence whilst also disagreeing with someone!
If you’ve been judged harshly when you’ve shown anything that tiptoes into anger, this blog is for you! Read to the end to find out how much more money you can earn if you recognise that disagreement but catch it before it spills into anger.
So the key way to show that you disagree with someone while also maintaining the relationship and them not judging you for it, is by EXPLAINING YOUR INTENT.
Anger isn’t an emotion we like in women. People see an angry woman as ‘out of control’ or blame her anger on her personal faults. By comparison, research shows we attribute male anger to external causes, like him having to suffer from unfair treatment. Plus, those researchers found observers are quicker to think a woman has lost her temper, giving men more leeway to express his discontent before eventually judging him harshly.
For my third book, I interviewed a former head honcho at Essity, a Swedish-based FMCG multinational. Georg Schmundt-Thomas recognised the disparity in how we judge women and men for exactly the same behaviours. He saw this as ironic and told me:
"Women who don’t conform fail. When they put up a fight, it’s often a fight the company actually needs. However, she’ll get written off for ‘stepping on people’s toes’ or ‘being difficult’. Guys who take the same approach, by comparison are a ‘force of nature’ or ‘admirably committed to the cause’. That’s praised because he’s being confident in standing his ground."
When I hear that, I think about how BROKEN our current definitions of confidence are, which is why I wrote the book. However, there IS a way around this. Interestingly these differences have financial implications. Researchers found when people saw anger in a speaker, they were more likely to assume the speaker, whether male or female, was incompetent - clearly not a good look. This judgement penalised the speakers both financially, though women lost out the most. The perceived competency of ‘forceful' or 'assertive' women’s perceived worth fell by $15,088. The less dramatic competency drop for men worth $6,547 for men.
Recognising this was a big problem for women, the researchers experimented with various 'hedges' that might reduce this judgement. What they found was that just explaining the intent of your comment decreased the negative impact by 16%. Before giving a disagreeable opinion, people were encouraged to say: ‘I see this as a matter of honesty and integrity, so it’s important for me to be clear about where I stand’.
This on its own made the listeners actually hear the comment better, and with far less judgement and because it worked for both men and women, this tactic can benefit everyone.
Understanding how you can get valued for your competence in a world obsessed with confidence is EXACTLY why I’ve written my third book - The Con Job! Because it’s a total con if the people who use a superficially confident demeanour make all the big decisions affecting the rest of us - when actually we’d all be better off with more competent heads on the big problems we face in the 20th century.
Keep up to date with the activity around my book The Con Job by following #morecompetence on Twitter and Instagram.
And it you enjoyed reading this, like it and share it with your friends and colleagues too - you won’t be the only one feeling this way.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Author, Speaker & Gender Balance Expert for 25+ years.
Hear what I told BBC Radio about what to do about the worsening gender pay gap data