The Effect of Time’s Up on Men

Though we do have our share of heroines who fought for women’s equality way back, the fact is that our drive did upend the structure of business and industry – male power structures – as they had been run for centuries.  This demanded lots of adjustment and compromising on men’s part as we kept pushing our way in.  They needed to think about these new kinds of male-female relationships and how their lives would change.  How would they adjust? What would the new roles be that they would have to play with women who worked with or for them?  “This is not what I expected when I grew up and moved into the places I assumed were waiting for me.  After all, growing up as a boy and a man in the U.S. imbued them with the sense of power they “inherited”.

I have been involved in the women’s movement from the beginning and hosted a pioneering women’s daily TV talk show in Boston in which we not only showed the first full-fledged birth of a baby but dealt with every phase of politics and the power issues of the day. And I was always aware of the fact that we were creating quite a social upheaval. That we do need to keep remembering that we were not invited in to share men’s thrones!  That was our idea as we started making inroads into what had been a totally accepted societal norm till the late 60s and 70s.

The triumph women feel in this truth-telling time is long overdue and certainly moving in the right direction. But I often wonder about the effect it is having on men.

Till not so long ago, Mom stayed home and Dad worked.  The early resistance and resentments were therefore understandable but were not given much thought. In our zeal, we only saw them as unfair, old-fashioned, and often as the “enemy” because they wouldn’t exactly let us in.  Even now, as women have moved far ahead and are much more actively running for office, we must continually deal with the still fairly common prejudice against continuing to cede power or grave responsibility to women…

So now we come to the Time’s Up Movement.  And the #MeToo movement.  Effects?  Well, the prurient secrets are out in the open.  Although I was also a victim, lots of other folks have finally begun finding out about the rampant physical disrespect for women and the use of men’s power against women that has gone on for generations. The noise of #MeToo allowed many women to stand up and tell about their experiences and let the public know something that was hidden for so long.  And the effects have been powerful and fairly shocking – like bankrupting Harvey Weinstein’s company and several really important TV and theatre stars losing their careers.

But moving this information into the light of the major public arena has made a difference for women.  One of our big problems is now shared by the world!  That SAG-AFTRA award show where everyone talked about it and the women all wore black and the men wore the Time’s Up pin was enormously effective.  A kind of shared “fists in the air” with steam building.  What must that this have done to men?  Well, I have heard defensiveness from men as well as lots of Bravos.  But here it is again.  We not only pushed our way into their world but now have the ability to get public notice for telling ills we have long suffered.  From them!!  Of course this is generalizing but when you talk of group-think, that happens.  But notice the power that has recently been given to women!

So, alongside the triumph of getting to tell the truth out loud, I think we should also consider in how many ways men have had change thrust upon them. That their natural resentments and defensiveness can create a bit of a backlash.  But the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are spreading new information and creating change as the cover gets blown off this long-held secret.

I cannot leave before I recognize and applaud the younger generations. Born into this new world, they have accepted these changes: Moms working, Dads sometimes playing Mom’s roles, new levels of sensitivity and openness to the many variations the human condition can create as the norm.  Accepting what has happened to women’s roles, they did not pay the costly price of intrusion and change thrust upon previous generations.

So, it’s interesting to ask the men you know, how do they really feel about the changes the women’s movement has wrought and which side of Time’s Up are they on?

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Stage Fright

“Whenever I have to make a presentation or speak in public I get so panicky that I even draw a blank as I start to plan it” Sound familiar? You’re in good company.

Did you know that the number one fear of the American public — researched annually for the last 40 years — has been and still is any form of public speaking!It comes up as number one year after year. Amazing.

Actually amazing to me because, since I was a small child, I was always glad to appear in public. To say my piece, play my tune, dance my dance, make my speech — all of it was not only easy and natural for me but also fun! So I have tremendous empathy for folks who find appearing in public to be terrifying and in my adult professional work I’ve not only continued to reach out, connect with and perform for the public but also to teach other people “how-to” — whether in the courtroom, the boardroom or the media.

In an effort to understand why this fear is so rampant and widespread and to help solve it, I’ve studied all aspects of this panic to find out what creates it. And you know what? I’ve found the key ingredients! Understanding and demystifying them can help launch you on the path to erasing them.

So let me share what I learned about how to help folks get over that panic, that stage fright and be able to stand up in public and give that smashing presentation, explain your ideas, and present yourself as you really are, to your best advantage.

Stage fright is really based on a myth. Here it is: somewhere in the world there’s a way to deliver your speech with a perfect 10. You become obsessed with measuring yourself against that perfect “10,” thinking how far below that you’ll fall. This gives birth to an enormous case of “What if I fumble and lose my words?” ” I hate how I look,” “What will my boss (colleagues, clients) think of this — good? Smart? Well-conceived?” You can also add “My mother (father, teacher) always said I mumbled” and “I never liked making a show of myself” and there you’ve got it — Stage Fright!

See — the energy and the focus is all about ME ME ME the speaker, not YOU YOU YOU the people being spoken to. Obsessing on you and your performance — what kind of grade you’ll get, how far off the markyou’ll be. But that’s not what presentations are about! They’re about giving your message to an audience! About explaining, persuading, supporting what information you want to get across to them. About how to make your audience listen. About helping them get your ideas and understand your points, not at all about you and how you’re doing.

So let’s go to the source of this problem. How come so many people get stuck in this trap? Where does it come from?

Well, there are three basic well-springs in our backgrounds:

Childhood — How you communicate starts out embedded in your childhood. You watch others around you in the family and unconsciously try to copy them. But your folks and teachers, in an effort to make you better at it, often criticize how you’re doing it so you start out thinking “there’s a better way and I haven’t done it.” Next comes…

Adolescence — the real killer to self-confidence. Here we introduce the full-length mirror and all the “unacceptable” messages it gives us about our potential for success against our peers. And does the media ever have a field day with telling you how far short you’re falling from the ideal! All this does such a job on how you feel about displaying yourself in public for everyone’s perusal and grading!

Adult Experience — Here’s where your professional and work experience begin to single out what’s admirable and what’s not, what works, who stands out and gets ahead and why. And you start comparing yourself — unrealistically — since you really have no idea how you come across to others. You can only use your own internal insecurities to grade yourself. And you also add some assumptions about how self-confident and competent others appear (though they may not feel that way at all, either!). This dramatically helps you slide up and down, mostly down, on that grade scale. And of course it continues your focus inward, onto you and how you’re doing, and away from outward — towards finding out whatothers care about and how to best tell them your ideas and help them understand you better.

Funny thing is, this insight, this change of focus can get truly get you over stage fright because you’ll get so busy concentrating on capturing your audience, on making them get your message and thinking about the best ways to do that that you stop obsessing about yourself and what kind of grade you’re going to get.

See — the true secret to being a great communicator is understand your audience. Know that people are motivated by self-interest and the key to reaching, persuading, capturing others is to reach out to their self-interest before you get yours met.

So all the self-focus that is the essence of stage fright dooms you to failing in this key pursuit. That’s one of the major reasons to work on this — beyond the sheer business of getting comfortable so your best natural self can come through.

Bottom line: Your sense of self is so often fashioned by illusions — by comparisons and wrong assumptions. And by what other people — and the media — have told you is good and admirable. You gotta drop all that and start focusing first on the job at hand when you present. Use your good head, your past experience and the knowledge you’ve gathered to attack your presentation from the audience’s point of view, not your own. What do they need from you? What have you to offer them? What do they already know and what do you need to fill in? What worries them? What’s tough in today’s world? Grab them with relevance and with energy, with the sense that they’ll miss something they can use if they don’t listen and stay tuned. And then think about what new interesting ways can you make your message clear. Attention getting. Compelling.

And y’know what? Out the window goes the panic while you stay tight on grabbing and keeping them. Making them know that they need to hear you!

In another blog I’m going to give you some great tips on what makes people listen today and some great techniques for being a charismatic presenter. But for now I hope you’ve gotten some insights into the heart of the matter and that they’ll help you start enjoying the sharing of your ideas and feelings with others.