Self-Promotion for the Quieter Professional Woman


Two words that make many women squirm.

Perhaps it’s our upbringing – as girls, we were taught to be quiet, submissive, to blend in, not to stick out. And to never, ever boast about our accomplishments or talents.

Which I totally relate to – who likes a braggart, right? – and works well, to a certain extent.

Until you find yourself consigned to the slower track in your organization, because your colleague – who has the same amount of experience and qualifications – is seen as more assertive and proactive and a problem solver, because they confidently bring up their ideas and solutions in meetings, and never miss an opportunity to put their ideas and opinions forward.

Or, having started a business because you have a dream of helping people, you realize to your horror that it means you have to be willing to TELL people about your business and ARTICULATE why the benefits of your product or service are superior to what’s available.

In both situations, whether to stand out at work or in the marketplace, you have to do stuff that gets you SEEN and HEARD. No one lights a lamp and then hides it under a bushel, right? The point of a lamp is to give light.

At this point, many women come unglued, because their personal values appear to clash with what they need to do to succeed as professionals and business owners.

We’ve all had negative experiences with people who talk incessantly about how good THEY are (or their product or service), who seem to have little or no regard as to whether we might be in a hurry, or feel uncomfortable with the way the conversation is heading, or whether we are even mildly interested in their “thing”. Who wants to be that person?

Not me, and I’m guessing, not you either.

So how do you bridge this gap and learn to get good at letting yourself and your gifts and expertise be seen, MINUS the sleaze factor?

Here are 3 tips that I’ve found helpful:

1) Make it about the other person.

The moment you do this, your focus changes, the pressure is off you – and the energy of the conversation will change subtly as well.
Try this for yourself the next time you get in conversation and are asked about your work/business/opinions.
After you’ve mentioned what you do and who you help, get curious and interested about THEIR problems and challenges, THEIR dreams and hopes.
What would you do if you could swap places?
Would you react the same way, or react differently?
If you were them, what would you love for someone to do for you?

2) Be certain that whatever you say or promise is in integrity with who you are.

It’s tempting to get excited and make promises about what you can do or how good your product/service is.
Make an effort to under-promise, hold back some of that enthusiasm, and focus on building trust and rapport first.

3) Listen to understand, rather than to show what you know.

Too often I have found myself thinking ahead while the other person is still talking, because I am not good at thinking on my feet, so I try to get ready my intelligent response ahead of that.
Unfortunately, that means I am not fully present – my brain is too busy framing an anticipatory response.
People can sense that the rapport has broken somehow, and they will start to disconnect, so please don’t do what I did.

To recap:
Make it about the other person.
Build trust and rapport first.
Listen to understand.