What if Women Helped Women — Paltrow, Judd, Jolie Joined Forces? Change Would Begin

Not that this lets men off the hook.  If you’ve worked with mostly men, as I have, you hopefully know that the ones harassing and abusing power are a minority. And, as we’ve been learning this week, men have stood up and told other men to stop doing these things — particularly if the actions affected a dear friend or partner.

But, in my experience, when women are demeaned or pressured by powerful men to do things they don’t want to do, they often tell another woman. That’s the time when women should be able to support each other, to assess what happened and determine how to help.

What if Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and the other women who have come forward were to join forces to develop a set of standards.  These would be signed by powerful people with whom they and other actresses and artists might work.

What if they insisted that these standards be applied and set up a program to assure that result? Meaning that any person or organization that didn’t adhere to the standards would hear from that program. What if they were to accrue power so their voices would be heard? Then change would happen.

This isn’t just a solution for Hollywood. It can work in any organization. It isn’t anti-men or blind to the fact that some men are falsely accused. It is a start toward a solution for women who have been demeaned, harassed, sexually pressured or worse.

We have to start somewhere. And there is no time like the present.

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Why Most Women Don’t Speak Up When Harassed — or Worse

That’s the question all over the media as women come forward stating that they were harassed, at the very least, by the powerful Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein. Some wonder why these women weren’t more “courageous,” why they didn’t take on a mogul who had their reputations and careers in his hands.

Perhaps this excerpt from a novel I’m about to publish will shed some insight as a young woman tries to tell her brother the truth – that years ago she’d been attacked by a man with power – a man she’d trusted, who’d promised to help her career because of her extraordinary talent:

     “He should have paid publicly,” Shamus said. “He should have lost his job, been blamed and shamed, forced to skulk off into oblivion.” He was on a roll, not looking at her pained expression.
     “You’re saying I should have turned him in to the police, right?”
     “Well, it would have…”
     “It would have what?”
Shamus fell silent. He raised his hands and let them drop.
     “He would have denied it,” Meg said. “I would have looked like an idiot for believing he wanted to help my career, for going with him to his room, for trusting him. I was an idiot. After it happened, I was traumatized. I knew if people found out they would snicker for years. They’d all be thinking about that night. The charitable ones would have pitied me.  It would have been in the newspapers and online. How would I have gotten up in front of people?” She looked directly into her brother’s’ eyes. “Think about it!”
     “Right. I just…”
    “You just what?”
    “It doesn’t matter what I think.” he said.
    “You see, it does. Because if my own brother believes that I should have turned him in to the police, that’s what most people would think. I knew then that either way I’d lose. I chose the safer way.”
     Shamus closed his eyes for a moment. 
    I felt stupid, betrayed, and disgusted with myself,” she continued. “And that’s just the half of it.”
   “What’s the other half?”
   “Violated, Shamus. I felt dirty if you must know. His hands had been all over me. Do you understand? Do you?” Her eyes were locked on his now, red and raw.
   “Christ. You were young. You can’t torture yourself.”
   “Too late. I have tortured myself.” She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, hands holding her forehead, finger tightly kneaded into her hair.  “I wanted him dead,” she continued, eyes drenched in misery. “Hardly a night has gone by that I haven’t envisioned him in a car accident, the seatbelt stuck, him burning to death, or being killed in a robbery.  I saw him bleeding in dark alleys, falling from cliffs…”
     “Easy. I get it.” He placed his hands on hers.
     She pulled away. “I wanted revenge, Shamus,” she said, every muscle of her face taught. “Once I got past wanting to crawl into a hole and never come out for being so stupid and then for not saying anything, I wanted revenge. You see, you’re wrong about women — wrong about this woman. I wanted him to suffer and to pay.”
     “How did you manage to keep this to yourself all these years?” Shamus asked evenly as if righting a boat in the middle of a maelstrom.
    “Women do it all the time.”
    “I know, but not…”
     “Not someone like me, right?” she snapped loudly, sarcastically. “Not someone with options, with a career, with a level of credibility the police would respect.”
     “I’m not the enemy here,” Shamus said. He placed his right hand on his forehead for a moment. His mind was swirling with questions, but, she was right, all of them sounded like blame.

There are few women who haven’t experienced some form of belittlement, harassment or worse. I’ve spoken with hundreds and most know what they’d say now, what they’d do differently given the chance. But when something so degrading happens, it’s hard to believe, especially if the person was trusted. Gwyneth Paltrow describes the feeling of shock, confusion and even loss:

When Mr. Weinstein tried to massage her and invited her into the bedroom, she immediately left, she said, and remembers feeling stunned as she drove away. “I thought you were my Uncle Harvey,” she recalled thinking, explaining that she had seen him as a mentor.

According to The New York Times, Angelina Jolie revealed that she stayed away from Weinstein after an incident. In her words:

I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did… This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.

Women know that rape cases rarely end in the rapist paying a hefty price, if any price at all. They know that in the U.S. alone tens of thousands of rape kits aren’t tested. They know they’ll be blamed, even by people they love, that others will not look at them in the same way.

Next time someone wonders aloud why many women don’t speak up right away when they are accosted by men they trusted, we should all think about who would have believed them, the big money lawyers that would have diminished them on the stand, and how that one incident could have defined them and altered their careers. These are not excuses for secrecy, but rather some of the reasons.

We should be impressed by those who come forward and/or do whatever they can to protect other women.  But, we should bear in mind that there is more than one reason why “revenge is best eaten cold” and justice too.  Often, by then you have your wits about you, you’re older, others are beside you, together you can afford the best lawyers, and maybe – just maybe – in that situation the perpetrator is no longer as powerful as he once seemed.

Perhaps we’ll reach a point around the world where women who have experienced harassment, violence or rape can speak up and know they will be heard, not demeaned, and certainly not blamed.

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The Secret Handshake Audible Version — Amazon Business Life Bestseller

The Secret Handshake has been on Amazon business bestseller lists during the last 17 years and at the top of Amazon’s bestselling books. A few months ago, Recorded Books released the Audible version and it is now #24 of the Business Life Bestsellers. Kind of cool!!

Do you want to know about politics at work so you’re no the last to know what’s going on?

Link to The Secret Handshake here.

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What’s Missing From This Photo? And, by the way, speed is not a Quality of Leadership — Special Forces Just Died In Niger But No Mention. Instead Pressuring Generals/Admirals to Hurry Up

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Persuading Lawmakers to Protect Us From Gun Violence

One of the most persuasive opinion pieces on the issue of gun control was published yesterday in the New York Times. “Want Gun Control? Learn from the N.R.A.” by Hahrie Han proposes that we look at why rational arguments simply don’t work when it comes to convincing lawmakers and those opposed to gun control to take measures protecting U.S. citizens from gun violence.  It’s an article about persuasion even though the author does not describe it as such.  Han is a University of California Santa Barbara expert in the study of civic and political participation, collective action, organizing, and social change, particularly as it pertains to social policy, environmental issues, and democratic revitalization.

One of the primary arguments advanced by Han is this:

The N.R.A.’s power is not just about its money or number of supporters or a favorable political map. It has also built something that gun-control advocates lack: an organized base of grass-roots power.

Han argues that gun-control groups focus on persuasion, while gun-rights groups focus on identity.  In a way, though, the latter is a form of persuasion.  Homophily, or the sense of similarity people feel toward others, is one of the primary aspects of source credibility.  In persuasion theory and research terms, that means to the extent you seem to be like me in some important ways, I’m more inclined to listen, be attracted to, learn from and side with you.

Han posits that the N.R.A. has formulated a base via relationships.  As a cohesive collective this base is more powerful than gun-control advocates who cling to common sense and moral outrage but don’t come together as protectors of a way of life.  She adds that there are more gun clubs and gun shops in the United States than there are McDonalds.  And, the N.R.A. can bring 80,000 people together for a conference — people who see themselves as protectors, not simply of guns, but of a way of life.

I always start my persuasion and negotiation classes and presentations with the observation that no idea, no matter how sensible, attractive, intriguing, or clearly presented, stands on its own.  To persuade those on the fence about the need for gun common sense and even those who consider themselves opposed to automatic weapons, for example, we need to think about the way of life such common sense protects.  We can’t visit the issue occasionally and hope for change.  Gun lobbyists will wait for the horror in Las Vegas to fade in memory.  To bring about change, moral outrage must be converted to consistent, collective action protecting the lives and liberties of the innocent.

Four million have joined the Everytown for Gun Safety, Han points out.  But that’s just a start.  Only when a substantial base is formed of people invested in protecting the rights of those who merely wish to attend a concert or go to school will we possibly see change. Only when that base repeatedly, doggedly pounds on the doors of senators and congress people “owned” by gun lobbies insisting that they refuse to take money from them will we see change.

It isn’t enough to be right about the need for what I’d rather call gun management than gun control as the latter evokes defensiveness.  There needs to be more understanding of why so many people are willing to risk the lives of innocent people so that they might purchase whatever guns, in whatever quantity, they wish.

Effective persuasion is about knowing how the other side thinks.  Those who advocate for gun control must clearly define a view of the future with which people who own handguns and/or hunting rifles can identify.  They must provide opportunities for those morally outraged by gun violence to come together and grow in both voice and number. Until these things happen, we can expect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be robbed again and again from innocent people simply wishing to go about their daily lives.








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Are You in a Patient Style Rut?

After blogging on the front page of Huffington Post since 2005, Arianna Huffington invited me to blog on her site Thrive Global. As a former professor not only of business and communication, but also preventive medicine, it’s a good fit. Here is the first of what I hope will be many blogs with Thrive Global where well-being is a high priority.  See what patient communication style fits you.

Link to “Are You in a Patient Style Rut?”

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STOP! with the “Look!” and “Listen!”

Try listening to the news or political interviews now days without hearing statements starting with “Look!” or “Listen!”  Not so long ago, such exclamations were rude and insulting.  In many contexts, they still are.

Imagine a person being interviewed for a job starting sentences with either of these words.

Interviewer:  “Tell me why as a young person you chose music over sports?”

Interviewee:  “Look!”  I never liked sports.”

It’s rude — plain and simple.  The interviewee above comes across as defensive — even aggressive — in response to a logical question.

Yet, we hear “Look!” and “Listen!” daily as what communication experts refer to as aligning actions.  Some aligning actions are quite useful.  “Look!” and “Listen! are, however, often used to make innocuous statements sound significant.  Unless said pensively or apologetically, for example, “Look!” and “Listen!” can easily sound like “Look (or Listen), you idiot!”

It’s time to question and quash this habit before young people inadvertently acquire it and find themselves not getting jobs or acceptances to college because they used “Look!” or “Listen!” with a person who was clearly looking and listening — thank you very much!

We have moved into a period of greater directness, especially in televised media.  That does not mean that abrasive short-cuts to gravitas work in the real world.  They don’t.  The next time someone says “Look!” or “Listen!” to you, try calmly telling them that’s exactly what you’re doing.  Perhaps it will help them discard a verbal habit others find offensive.  It might give them pause.  If you’re a manager, try banning those words at meetings.  You’ll likely reduce conflict.  Additionally, you’ll be doing the people present and all of us a great favor.

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