“Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.” ― Sheryl Sandberg
The other night someone told me I was too nice — and it was meant as anything but nice. This person said it with no real context, other than the fact that the conversation we (a group of four or five women) were having was a negative one.
Negative and judgmental to be exact.
What frustrated me about this conversation is that they were criticizing other women — women in leadership. One even went so far as to criticize someone’s weight. This from someone who struggles with her own weight constantly, so it seemed like a particularly low blow to me. So what happened when I pointed that out? I was told that since I had never been in these women’s lines of fire, I couldn’t understand — and, besides, I was just “too nice” when it came to confronting anybody, anyway.
Honestly, I find that ironic since this back-handed compliment was paid to me because I was confronting their women-in-power-bashing conversation. Everyone’s words were negative, and negativity is where many of these conversations have been anchored as of late. And I’m at fault, too. I’ve taken part in the idle, judgey gossip.
If you know me, then you know I’m not particularly negative. And, yes, I am nice — and it’s quite genuine. My glass if half full. I’m optimistic. I’m upbeat. And I like to laugh. A lot. So the negativity can get to me — and it did just that the other night.
But it’s the criticism of other women that’s been bugging me — and, yes, if I’m being totally honest, the back-handed compliment that I’m too nice. Since reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and writing about it in relation to raising girls (and raising them to be leaders), I’m sensitive to the fact that women don’t have each other’s backs. One thing I noted in that post — which was more than obvious in this conversation — is that male co-workers lead and they are seen as excellent leaders. A female does the same thing and she’s criticized for being too aggressive, too inexperienced, too nice — or worse, FAT? Really? Is this our new low?
If by not taking part in this conversation, by pointing out the obvious irony in having it, or just by choosing to deal with people in a friendly way makes me “too nice,” well, I’m good with that. You see, if I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned to respect action. Because you won’t evoke change without it.
That’s why I think it’s time I move on from these types of conversations.
Bottom line? You can either be the change or talk about it.