How to Assert Yourself When You’re Dismissed

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Have you ever sat in a meeting and felt ignored or utterly unimportant?  Perhaps you offered up an idea that someone else seized upon. Maybe you inserted yourself into the conversation but no one gave you their eye contact or their attention. Whether you’re the youngest in the room or the one from a department no one respects (or you’re just not getting your due for unknown reasons), you can lean on these four strategies to re-assert yourself.

Get Back In There: If you’re getting jangled by rude or demeaning dynamics, resist the urge to disengage from the conversation and be silenced. Frame a relevant idea in your mind and then build off someone else’s idea starting with, “Yes, and…” Barbara Pachter a business etiquette expert and author, even advocates for strategically interrupting when you’re being talked over. Said Pachter, “In some situations, if you don’t interrupt, you won’t get to speak. The easiest way to interrupt is when the other person takes a breath. You then speak up quickly, acknowledge what the person said, and add your thoughts.”

• Lean On Powerful Evidence: It was author and journalist Christopher Hitchens who once said, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” Since knowledge is power, ask yourself how prepared you are for your typical meeting and how you introduce your ideas. If your idea isn’t getting the attention it deserves, tell your colleagues what competitive analysis, industry news or relevant and meaningful statistics you’re relying on. Then frame your ideas leading with your evidence, “The industry forces show…”, “The statistics reveal…”, “Our company has historically…”

Call Out The Dismissive Behavior: Ami B. Kaplan, LCSW, a New York city psychotherapist, recommends asserting yourself first and foremost by identifying and articulating the demeaning behavior you observe. Kaplan recommends saying, “That sounds dismissive” or “You’re being dismissive”, or “It’s not OK to just dismiss my point of view.” Building on Kaplan’s counsel, I have also seen people quiet the room and take back the platform with a firm “I wasn’t finished.” The best thing about this technique is that raises awareness about a person’s behavior and gives them a chance to correct it. Believe it or not, not all dismissive behavior is pointed or intentional.

Respect Your Résumé: When I interviewed the formidable Barbara Krumsiek, CEO of Calvert Investments for my book PUSHBACK, she urged women to lean more often on their knowledge and experience. Said Krumsiek, “I think it’s important for women to respect their resumes. I will try to weave into a conversation that I have math degrees or that I served on a national development team, for example. …Relate an anecdote that demonstrates your competence.” Next time you’re dismissed or challenged, try asserting what experience or training backs up your point. You might say, “Having worked for two of our competitors, I’ve seen multiple attempts at the same product we’re launching. The top lesson I learned was…”

For most of us, it’s not a question of if we’ll be dismissed or disregarded at some point, it’s when. That’s just life. When it happens, how will you handle it?

Tell me about a time you came back strong after being overlooked or snubbed. What would you advise others to do? What should they avoid?

This article appeared in Forbes on September 6, 2014.

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on women and leadership.  A seasoned human capital consultant, Selena uses workplace culture assessments to help corporate clients be more inclusive and welcoming to women.  She’s also the author of two leadership books targeted at professional women – Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and The Next Generation of Women Leaders (Praeger, 2009). Selena has been featured in the LA Times, Oprah.com, Todayshow.com, Forbes, and wrote an award-winning column on women for The Washington Post.

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