Michele Attias Life Coach

Women: How To Go From Bullfighter To Señorita In The Boardroom

There is a behaviour amongst certain women I’ve experienced recently, which revolves around battling it out in the workplace.

With daily interactions taking their toll as they’re stalked by fear which nags away, one that dilutes ambition, slows progress and ultimately sabotages the success already attained.

As much as us women want to be thought of as smart, assertive and worthy of respect, we certainly don’t want to be thought of as vulnerable, or g-d forbid, not be taken seriously.

I’m quite relieved we are no longer seen as the weaker sex and that women from many parts of the world can finally express themselves with far more ease than ever before. We’re incredibly fortunate to be as expressive as we want to be and I’m optimistic that others who are trapped in countries still enslaved by medieval laws will finally be released from this, to enjoy the liberties we enjoy in the western hemisphere.

The Economist states:

Women are crucial to economic growth around the world. Based on our experiences, women entrepreneurs see the world through a different lens and, in turn, do things differently. This is reflected in the kinds of businesses they start, whether it’s Coco Chanel, who learned the trade of a seamstress as a child. Estée Lauder, who turned a passion for skincare and make-up into a beauty empire, or Oprah Winfrey, whose media business focuses on helping women reach their potential.

Note how it’s about powerful entrepreneurial women focusing on their strengths, not stamping or competing in the battle of the fittest.

The Mediterranean Essence of the Woman.

I grew up in an environment in the Mediterranean where men ruled the roost, so basically that was your dad, brothers, male cousins, uncles and grandfather.

However, within this environment lay the Pièce de résistance.

The Señorita.

The essence of this feminine Goddess brought an explosive combination of power and inner strength combined with softness and vulnerability. The women owned the stage where the men were absolutely enthralled and captivated by the combination.

Sublime and beautiful.

It might have seemed as if the women were kept well under the thumb, but I kid you not, beneath it all, they had their men wrapped around their fingers. Passion, not anger dominated. Love for their families combined with the fierce and fiery protective instinct drove them forward, onwards and upwards.

The women became confidants to each other in a supportive way, as they bonded together through the love of their families and community. They worked hard, yet never did they need to fuss or remind us of their powerful role. The elegance of their role knew no bounds, as they moved around the vicinity without the lingering feeling of dissatisfaction that is so rife today.

Our grandmothers and mothers were homemakers extraordinares, they cooked to perfection, often looking after the family and their businesses simultaneously.

Resentment, anger and aggressiveness was none existent. In its place reigned a fiery passion and determination to hold on to what was essentially important to them.

The question I continued to asked myself was, did the women feel any less than their male counterparts?

My curiosity spurred me to ask my mother if she had ever questioned her role within this culture. She responded in a calm, reflective way, stating that she had been caught up in the war and this had stooped any attempts to follow a nursing career.

Once she got married, her role was one of supporting and standing alongside my father in all his various business endeavours. Her input was highly valued and needed and she never questioned her dedication to his cause or the families.

Her role had organically developed and she had neither resisted nor battled through it, she had simply surrendered to its simplicity. No soul searching, no visits to Ashrams in India to find herself, or attempts to attend a range of empowering courses for women that are so popular in this day and age.

As they say, behind every great man is an even greater woman, and she has always been his backbone and more so.

She is his muse.

To clarify, we’re talking about a small town in the Mediterranean, not corporate America or the United Kingdom.

I understand that our culture shapes and impacts how we experience our gender roles. Yet we are all essentially human in form, just encased in a gender form and it seems as if we have lost the simplicity, the sublime, the beauty and in its place have developed a hardness, a constant fighting for survival.

The same way my dog fights for survival and uses territorial tactics with the neighbours cat.

Do you think the cat even cares about my dogs territorial bark?

The cat simply walks away, ignoring my dogs need to be noticed and mark her territory. The cat in all probability thinks ‘Let the dog have her moment, and I will have mine’.

We have much to learn from this cat. 
Because essentially there is no need to fight.

In contrast to the señorita, let me move on to the Bullfighter.

The Bullfighter.

For all animal rights activists, I’m only using an analogy, not advocating bullfighting. A psychological understanding about bullfighting:

As soon as the bullfighter walks into the bullring, the aim is to know his opponent as his survival depends on this. The bullfighter proceeds to use the red cape to play around with the bull to assess him psychologically and then moves on to weaken the bull slowly but surely using a catalogue of moves and tactics.

The bullfighter doesn’t take his eye off the bull, shows he is in command by using body language to demonstrate this. He never lets his guard down as this could be fatal. The entire practice is a psychological game where there can only be one winner, the bullfighter or the bull, never both.

Unlike the bullfighter, our aim shouldn’t be to weaken anyone in the bullring or boardroom, but to empower and make others feel great when they’re around us.

Powerful Senoritas reduce the ego and expand the soul.

I was having a conversation with a lady a few weeks ago who elaborated on how her purpose was to facilitate the connection of business people meeting and networking as a way of expanding their businesses. I questioned why her networking groups were only aimed at women.

Her response shocked me.

She stated that when men used to attend her events, she experienced them as responding in a way which made her feel small and insignificant. As she expanded on this statement, I could see her getting more agitated, with her neck contorting and a deep colour red rising in her cheeks.

At one point I thought she would self-combust.

Her interpretation of the men’s response, stopped her from following her purpose and expanding out into by including all business people who wanted to connect.

Examples of women who used their soul to fuel their purpose;

  • Dr Maya Angelou — A poet, actress, dancer, singer, civil rights activist, and an author, she was the perfect definition of an inspiring multi-talented woman. Despite the many awards and honorary degrees that she received during her lifetime, her humble demeanour was truly inspirational.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — A Nigerian author and leader whose actions matched her philosophy. She remains a charismatic, courageous and optimistic woman who inspired change.
  • Mother Teresa — Established Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa’s compassion for humanity was felt around the world. She understood the power of one person’s influence and her driving force was her faith and compassion for humanity.

Let us Imagine for a moment Mother Teresa having stormed out of a United Nations conference because someone made her feel small and worthless. Ultimately she didn’t care, because her soulful purpose was more important than anything else.

We can learn a great deal from these women, hey had a powerful soul, not an inflated ego.

How to ditch the Bullfighter vibe:

  • Appreciate Don’t Depreciate — An appreciative request is straightforward and doesn’t deprecate the other person. This is in contrast to passive-aggressive requests or backhanded jabs that are plain enough to hurt. Subtle word choices can make women’s voices sound demanding in the workplace, and something as small as changing how you rephrase a request can help you ditch the bullfighter vibe.
  • Assertive Not Aggressive — Make a decision as to what you will and won’t tolerate from others in the workplace. Know your limits, establish healthy boundaries and refine what you want. Assertiveness allows you to communicate honestly and authentically with grace not aggression.
  • Attentive Not Dismissive — Being a good listener is one of the most attractive and valuable qualities you can display when interacting in the workplace. People want to be valued not dismissed. Show this by maintaining eye contact, managing your own emotions and thoughts, to set aside personal agenda, reactions or defences.
  • Collaborative Not Isolated — Collaborating and working together means looking for ways to achieve a situation where both people are happy, or have at least reached a compromise without you kicking your heels in.
  • Empower Not Demoralise — The most respected, dominant, successful women I know were so because they never tried too hard. They built others up and made them feel good by instilling value upon them. You want to disarm with charm rather than try and beat others down with verbal or physical intimidation.
  • Approachable Not Aloof — If people don’t like you, they won’t follow you, no matter how much you try. Humans are not a species where sheer physical dominance wins the day. It’s a combination of perceived physical presence, and demonstrated social ability.

To Conclude.

As women, our fear of the dreaded pushover or weak label is so strong that it affects our behaviour in ways we don’t even recognize. It alters the way we communicate, how we speak and therefore impacts how we’re treated. No one is advocating we become a Stepford wife. Stand up and be counted, but do it graciously and with true señorita style.

Radiate the most positive energy you can muster and others will be more likely to approach you when you’re smiling, laughing, and happily engaged with your surroundings. The feeling and energy this radiates is infectious.

It’s about mixing vast inner strength with charm and social grace. This is the essence of the señorita — not a pushover or a wallflower, but a radiant and powerful essence which makes people feel great when they are around us.

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