Inspiring Girls to be Assertive Communicators
At GENaustin, we love empowering girls to find their voices and express themselves in ways they didn’t originally think they could. That’s why we were so excited to discover this article from Fast Company Magazine titled “How We Can Help Young Girls Stay Assertive”. In the article, psychologists discuss the discouraging trend of men’s voices overpowering the voices of women, especially in male-dominated environments. They point to puberty as the time when girls begin to become more passive communicators and present five suggestions for adults who want to nurture girls’ confidence:
1. Encourage her interests in order to let her confidence in one area teach her how to apply that same attitude in other areas.
2. Point out media pressure to adhere to gender stereotypes in an effort to help girls understand that this messaging is limiting and often harmful.
3. Watch your talk about appearance or gendered expectations in order to model good behavior for the girls in your life.
4. Give her a safe place to express herself, as her comfort in speaking with you may lead to comfort with speaking in other situations.
5. Talk about the phenomenon of women becoming passive communicators so that she can think critically about it.
Looking at this list, we found ourselves nodding our heads in agreement. GENaustin’s curriculum incorporates these principles in our programming in an effort to build and bolster a strong sense of self-esteem. We encourage girls’ interests through lessons on identity and support them in proudly displaying their unique qualities. Through GirlConnect Codes and GirlConnect Workshops, we empower girls to pursue their interest in STEM fields, despite the misguided assumption that these fields are for men. In GENaustin’s GENuine Beauty and body image curriculums, we point out negative stereotypes in the media and encourage media literacy. GirlConnect and much of our programming incorporates activities where girls create their own media, which empowers them to change the messages being sent to girls everywhere. Our Program Coordinators use inclusive language, and our “Body Image: Promoting the Healthy Ideal” workshop teaches parents how to apply this language to their own lives. GENaustin seeks to create a safe, supportive space for all our events (whether they are for girls or adults) in order to foster healthy connection and honesty in our participants. Lastly, we talk about passive versus assertive communication during our communication and relationship programming, emphasizing the benefits of communicating assertively.
We believe so passionately in the importance of encouraging girls to let their voices be heard, that we act in a number of ways beyond those mentioned above to encourage assertive communication. Below, we have assembled our own list of six suggestions for adults who want to foster confidence in communication for the girls in their lives:
1. Teach her to use the Big 3 (eye contact, voice, and body language) to appear confident. Although she may not feel confident initially, using direct eye contact, a self-assured tone, and good posture will influence the way others perceive her. The impact this may have on the way she is treated could bolster her self-esteem in situations where she is expected to voice her opinions.
2. Teach her to use power poses to convey confidence. During our confidence and communication lessons, we like to show girls this TED talk which discusses the link between body language, perception, and brain chemistry.
3. Teach her to establish boundaries in relationships using assertive communication. Since girlhood is a time which strongly emphasizes interpersonal relationships, being able to define the boundaries of those relationships can shape the way that girls interact with others later in life.
4. Teach her to identify the different communication styles (passive, assertive, and aggressive) and practice using each one. At ClubGEN, we teach girls about all three styles and have her practice using each one by manipulating the Big 3: eye contact, voice, and body language.
5. Encourage her to reflect on the communication styles of bullies, targets, and buddies, as well as herself, in order to learn more about how being passive, assertive, or aggressive impacts how people perceive her.
6. Apply assertive communication techniques to friendship conflict scenarios and reflect on why these would be more effective than a passive or aggressive response. We do this in our programs using group role playing activities that draw on real life examples of conflicts with friends.
7. Let GENaustin help with one of our confidence building programs (like the Pathfinder Leadership Summer, Spring Break Camp, or Summer Camps.) GENaustin specializes in programs that allow girls to practice these communication skills in a safe space with peers and relatable role models.
Assertive and confident communication is essential to healthy, happy girls, which is why this is such a heartfelt issue for us. Being an assertive communicator allows girls to carve out a space for themselves in the world and let their voices be heard. If you are interested in bringing one of our communications workshops to the girls or adults in your life, you can learn more on our website.