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‹ View all articles 14th November 2013

Good Girls and why they make mediocre Public Speakers...

How to Inspire

I grew up thinking that it's good to be 'Good'; that one should be polite, smiley and pleasant. One should never offend, never assert themselves too much, nor should get too passionate or too emotional. One should, you might say, be a 'Good Girl'. But what is a Good Girl in public speaking? Do the same rules apply?

So. I just read an article by Justine Musk who always always all ways… inspires me. (you should check her out btw) how a woman can write to change the world. I'd like to take my spin on that... How a woman can SPEAK to change the world (boys, I'm aware this also applies to you - this one's written especially for the girls though).

She repeatedly speaks of the good girl box:

"Good girls don’t put themselves out there, throw down the conversational gauntlet, express intense and passionate opinions (at least not without apologizing profusely). After all, we might come off as too loud, too obnoxious. We might offend people. Take up too much space. Attract too much attention."

Every single time I read something like this I get a twinge. A twinge at what society thinks is good equaling obedient. The characteristics taught to our daughters about what a “Good Girl” looks like… be demure, be overly humble, don’t interrupt, behave, think inside the box, don’t be mouthy or opinionated, play with girl toys, acquiesce to higher authority lest you be thought of as the "B" word (it could go on and on), and never ever EVER dare interrupt someone.

Yes. Even in this day and age you must DARE not interrupt anyone, speaking with zest and fervor could get you a label, and sometimes we STILL have to prove our worth over and over and over.

7 sure signs you're a Good Girl

  1. You worry a lot about pleasing the audience "Will I know enough?" "Will they like me?" "What will they think of my talk?";
  2. You moderate what you're saying so that it's easier or nicer to hear;
  3. You would rather change your opinion than disagree with someone in a public speaking setting;
  4. You have a tendency to rush through your material or shorten it, preferring not to take up too much time of the audience;
  5. You tend towards facilitating a discussion, rather than rallying change;
  6. You tend to apologize or get embarrassed if you notice yourself having too much impact
  7. You seek connection and resonance with the audience more than allowing them the discomfort needed to change.

Good Girls aren't Good Enough

But how does this relate to public speaking? Is it Good to be a Good Girl when you're in front of an audience?

Although it feels good to be pleasant and liked by your audience, Good Girls are losing out on their chance to bring benefit to an audience. Next time you have the urge to be a Good Girl, think:

  1. You represent the power of your message:
    • A public speaker is also a leader, so if you are uncertain about the force of your message, you will signal to your audience that they shouldn't take it seriously either.
  2. "Pleasant" isn't always the most effective:
    • Pleasant might make you likeable, but it's more likely to be mediocre than powerful. Rapport is important to connect you to an audience, but there are times when you need to risk breaking rapport to have the biggest impact.
  3. It's not about you:
    • Next time you start to worry about whether your audience like you or not, remember that you're missing the point. The audience are much more interested in getting benefit from your talk, than in judging you as likeable or otherwise.
  4. The biggest gift you can give your audience is fearlessness:
    • When you unleash your full power you become more powerful than you can imagine. This is what brings the most benefit; both to your audience and to you. Your true job as a public speaker is to bring about inspiration or change; to get across a message of some sort. This comes from being fearless, not from being a Good Girl.
  5. Focus on 'Good' and you lose all the other aspects of your power
    • If you are only 'Good' you lose the potential to aspect all the other aspects of what makes you great. If you're not a Good Girl, you could be fierce, weird, pushy, noble, fiesty, sexy, funny, crazy... or a whole host of other characteristics.
  6. You give yourself permission to be powerful
    • So often, we wait for someone to tell us that it's ok for us to speak our mind, to argue, to stick up for something important. You could be waiting forever for that to happen. Instead of waiting, take permission from yourself that you are allowed to express yourself. Or if you really need permission - I give it to you right now.

The true issue here is NOT so much gender, as it is the lack of belief in one’s right to be worthy, to be heard and to take up space. It's not just ladies who get Good Girl syndrome, although often women seem to have a harder time with this than our hairier counterparts. It's about being confident and empowered, regardless of gender; to take center stage when it's needed. Read more about power and confidence in this article from the Ginger perspective (no matter the gender).

Good Girl Goodbye

I've struggled with my own relationship to the Good Girl. Here how I overcame the Good Girl in my TEDx talk below:

Good luck girls - go gettem!

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