Have you ever felt invisible? Taken advantage of? Unable to articulate what you really want? If so, join the club. Lois P. Frankel and Carol Frohlinger’s “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It” teaches women everywhere how to assert themselves to get what they want in any situation and across all areas of their lives. Read an excerpt.
Introduction: All about nice girls
If you often feel invisible, taken advantage of, treated less than respectfully, or at a loss for how to get the things you most want in life — join the club. The nice girls club, that is. Nice girls are women who hold themselves back in life by conforming to the stereotypical behaviors they’ve been socialized to believe are necessary for survival.
These are women who unwittingly sabotage relationships — in their romantic lives, with family members, at work, or with just about anyone else — and, as a result, fail to get the things they want most out of life. As women, we’re bombarded throughout our lives with messages that try to convince us that being “nice” is more important than getting the things we want. Even if no one has ever said this to you explicitly, we’re guessing you’ve most likely absorbed the message that putting your needs first will land you on the “bitch list.” Here’s an example of how messages from childhood can hurt you in the present. Cheryl is a manager in a large aerospace firm. She’s well respected at the office, but she’s still treated like a child by her parents. As a single woman, at holiday get-togethers with family, she’s expected to sit at the children’s table because there isn’t enough room at the dining room table for all the adults. Needless to say, it’s something that bothers her greatly, but she doesn’t know what to do about it. When she suggested that it was time for her to be seated at the adult table, she was told that she was being overly sensitive. So now she holds her tongue and goes along for the sake of getting along, not wanting to ruin family gatherings.
Reluctance to make waves has impacted her at work as well as at home. She’s known as an affable and easygoing woman, but is not considered “high potential” because she won’t express opposing opinions — even ones that could help the company to grow. Being a nice girl has gotten her to where she is — but it won’t get her to where she wants to go. The messages she received in childhood and now carries into the present are getting in the way of her ability to accomplish her adult goals.
Childhood behaviors, whether learned from implicit parental expectations or explicit demands, pervade every aspect of our experiences as women. From being unable to leave an abusive relationship, to being immobilized in a career, to being reluctant to question a physician about a prescribed course of treatment, nice girls are more concerned with how others may react, or what others may think of them, than they are with their own well-being.
Don’t get us wrong. Being nice is important, but niceness alone will not get you what you want out of life. Being kind, considerate, and generous is an ingredient for success in every endeavor or interaction, but it’s simply not sufficient. We know, from years of personal and professional experience, that you can reach your personal and professional goals and do it nicely. It’s not an either-or proposition.
Winning women are women who have learned how to win the respect they deserve, the success they’ve earned, and the life they want without being labeled a “bitch.” By “things” we don’t mean only tangibles such as a new home, a good deal on a car, or a better job. We mean creating situations where your voice is heard, your needs are met, and, regardless of the outcome, you feel good about how you handled yourself. Being a winning woman doesn’t mean you’ll always get everything you want, but it does mean you’ll go after your goals in ways that are authentic, intentional, skillful, and mature.
How this book will help you become a winning woman In “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” and “Her Place at the Table,” we focused on how to overcome the nice girl behaviors that can prevent you from achieving your career goals. From what we’ve heard from many of you who read these books, acting on our advice made a difference! Some women wrote to tell us they got promotions they wanted, others got raises, and yet others had the courage to walk away from toxic or unhealthy employment situations. To you, we tip our hats. Now we want to provide a broader set of skills you can use with anyone, anywhere: your landlord, mother-in-law, clients, neighbors, children — you name it. The truth is that many of the same skills, with only minor variations, apply across situations and relationships.
And it all starts with you. To what degree do you understand why you act as you do (or don’t)? How willing are you to make changes? If you are the quintessential nice girl, one who acts in ways she was socialized to behave, others in your life don’t have much interest or investment in helping you change. Why should they? By putting your needs last, you are meeting their needs. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. In this book we’ll help you resist this external pressure to stay the same and at the same time identify your true supporters — the ones who have your best interests at heart. These are people who act as role models, mentors, and cheerleaders for you. You’re going to need their support to build your winning woman muscle.
The other thing that is important to recognize at the outset is that the messages nice girls internalize about how to behave are deeply culturally ingrained. They are constantly reflected and reinforced by our traditional family structures, social norms, and established business practices. We are hopeful that societal pressure will eventually force reevaluation and redesign, but shifts of this type and magnitude take time. We make this point not to discourage you but to suggest that, in the meantime, you must create your own opportunities to move from nice girl to winning woman. That’s exactly what this book is designed to help you do.
Nice girls don’t live the lives they want for one of two reasons: either they are unaware that their own behaviors are holding them back, or they don’t know what to do about it. “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It” provides the antidote to both. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a CEO, a student, an entrepreneur, or anyone in between, you most likely have your own Achilles’ heel when it comes to getting the things you want and have earned. We believe that understanding and strengthening the weakest link in your chain is the only way to transition from nice girl to winning woman. Here, we’ll arm you with the skills, beliefs, and knowledge needed to jump-start this transition and overcome the challenges that prevent you from getting the things you most want out of life. To that end, we’ve identified seven critical strategies and ninety-nine supporting tactics that countless winning women we’ve worked with have used successfully to achieve their personal and professional goals. Like many readers of our previous books, in these pages you may just find the secrets to getting what you deserve, need, and want.
From “Nice Girls Just Don't Get It: 99 Ways to Win the Respect You Deserve, the Success You've Earned, and the Life You Want" by Lois Frankel, Ph.D., and Carol Frohlinger, JD. Copyright © 2011. Reprinted by permission of Crown Archetype.