Stepping Into Assertiveness

I released a ‘Being’ episode of the podcast this week that was a road ramble on the topic of male entitlement. Big topic and my contribution is based on an experience I had waiting for an elevator last week.

Basically the doors to the lift open and a man was standing in the elevator seemingly transfixed in front of the button panel. In any other context this would be mildly amusing and I’m nothing if not amused by the incongruities of life like getting befuddled by what floor to get out on the first time you visit a new destination. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to empathise with mystery male as he completely ignored me and another woman who were waiting patiently to enter the lift.

Seconds felt like minutes and eventually, without making eye contact or verbalising anything, mystery male exited the lift and we were able to enter. It was bizarre for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the aforementioned seconds feeling like minutes. How weird is time.

Secondly, the fact that as these seconds elapsed and I stood waiting for mystery male to get out of the way and stop preventing us from entering the lift, I did not utter a word. Completely atypical behaviour for me. I’m never backwards in coming forwards, and I’m rarely lost for words.

Thirdly, mystery man failing to acknowledge our presence let alone the fact that we were seconds away from having the lift (one of only two) decide enough was enough and shut its doors without us inside it.

In the podcast episode I ruminate on the way this is a classic example of male entitlement. Men are socialised to take up space and they’re also socialised not to apologise for it. This is something women can mostly only dream of and if you’ve been following me for a while you will know that guilt and over-apologising is a weakness of mine.

The interesting thing is that this socialisation also means we can struggle with asserting ourselves. Instead of being assertive and politely asking mystery male to make a decision and get out of the way, I said nothing. Nada. Zip. Nor did the other woman. Yet when we were both safely within the privacy of the elevator we reflected on how this was such an obvious male entitlement moment. She expressed how she had contained herself and I remarked on how unlike me it was to not speak up.

This inbuilt reservation, failing to allow ourselves to assert ourselves in a situation where it is totally appropriate is an opportunity for  ‘progress over perfection’ for me.

Assertiveness can feel uncomfortable. It can feel risky. But in not speaking up for ourselves we compromise ourselves. The least of our problems is when entitled mystery men cause us to miss a lift.

I’d love to know your thoughts on what gets in the way of you showing up as assertive. Oh, and how to deal with mystery men blocking lift doors.

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Liz Van Vliet

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Liz Van Vliet, The Linchpin Assistant

Meet Liz

I work with Executive Assistants and Administrative Assistants to deliver the confidence, consistency and career development that transforms them into thriving Linchpin Assistants. 

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