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Sherri Richards, Published March 06 2014

Session teaches skills for confidence

FARGO – In her 20 years in the corporate world and seven years as a mindset coach and speaker, Teresa Lewis has seen women lack assertiveness, meekly voicing opinions and shrinking themselves into a boardroom chair.

Lewis was labeled at one job as not having confidence. It was a label that followed her, she said.

But it also was one she was able to overcome.

On Thursday, Lewis, owner of Get Inspired, led a seminar through North Dakota State University Distance and Continuing Education Executive Education session on assertiveness for women.

“There are real gender issues in the workplace,” Lewis said. “But I also know some of the issues exist because we lack confidence.”

Lewis said women often assume outwardly confident people don’t struggle with insecurity. She hoped bringing women together to talk about shared struggles would help them overcome issues with confidence.

Assertiveness is the middle ground of a spectrum, Lewis said. On one end is being submissive, or disrespecting yourself. On the other is aggressive, disrespecting others.

Being assertive is protecting your thoughts and ideas while respecting others’ rights, feelings and thoughts, she said.

“We have to figure out where it feels comfortable for us,” Lewis said. “You have to stick to who you are.”

Lewis talked about simple techniques that can portray more confidence, including posture, tone of voice and the words we use.

For example, women may ask to interject in a conversation, apologize for their objections, or disqualify their ideas with phrases like “I don’t know if this is valuable, but …”

“It doesn’t need to be confrontational. Just be firm and address the issue,” she said.

She had the dozen women in attendance assume a “Wonder Woman pose” while introducing themselves to one another, to show how our body language affects not only how others perceive us but how we perceive ourselves.

“It sends a message to the entire group,” she said about body language. “It sends a message to your brain.”

Hannah Sorensen, an adviser with Thrivent Financial, also spoke at the workshop. She said she often works with women who lack confidence in their finances.

“It’s really important at work, but it translates into your relationships. Those lines really blur, and it’s important in all aspects of your life,” Sorensen said of confidence.

She describes assertiveness as having a strong sense of self and knowing you can tackle anything you want to achieve.

Sorensen said she hoped the women who attended feel empowered to make a change or do something that they’ve been too scared to try.

“Maybe it’s a job change. It could be something as simple as starting a retirement fund. Making that step to something that makes them feel empowered that they shied away from in the past,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556.

Executive Education sessions

NDSU Distance and Continuing Education is offering a Leadership Excellence Advancement Program, featuring a variety of sessions for mid-level and emerging leaders. Future events include:

- March 14, Leadership and Management: The Essential Foundations.

- March 25, Emotional Intelligence: High Level Leadership.

- April 3, Designed to Win: Strategic Focus and Alignment.

- April 10, The 7 Mindsets @ Work.

- April 29, Managing Performance for Maximum Results.

- April 30, Creativity and Innovation.

- May 6, The Leadership Retreat: Forward Thinking.

For more information, log on to www.ndsu.edu/dce