Ladies Home Journal

Speak for Yourself Discover Your Inner Self-Promoter— and Get What You Really Want

By Caroline Sorgen

ladies-home-journal1Bonnie Bernell is not shy. But in November 2000, when she faced a reported for the first time after writing her very personal book Bountiful Women— about how large women can experience full lives — Bernell realized she still had a lot to learn about standing up for herself.

Instead of focusing on the thesis of her book, the reported surprised Bernell with “insulting questions like how I’m able to have sex with my husband at my weight,” she remembers. After fumbling through some answers, Bernell ended the interview early and took stock of the situation. Later she called the reporter back, and sold him on talking to her about what she wanted to discuss: her book. “I realized I didn’t have to do or say something just because another person wanted me to,” says Bernell. “And most important, I got my message through.”

By getting what she wanted out of the interview, Bernell had become an effective self-promoter. “Self promotion isn’t just about calling attention to your accomplishments,” says Susan Harrow, a media coach and author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul™ (Harper Collins, 2002). “It’s also about getting your ideas heard.”

What women don’t realize, adds Elizabeth Aries, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Amherst College, in Massachusetts, and author of Men and Women in Interaction (Oxford University Press, 1996), is that they self-promote all the time. Think of the last time you sweet-talked your credit-card agency out of charging you a late fee or a co-worker into covering for you so you could take a day off. That same power can be conveyed to a prospective employer or a room full of fellow PTA moms.

What’s more, learning to promote yourself can go a long way toward building self-confidence, says Linda C. Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Idaho State University who teaches interpersonal communication skills. “Self-promotion is a skill you can practice and learn,” she says. Here’s how to self-promote like a pro:

  • Focus on the positives. First, recognize your strengths — and write them down, says Hatzenbuehler. You can also start what Harrow calls an “incredible-moi” file, filled with emails recognizing a job well-done or even a list of verbal pats-on-the-back you’ve received from your boss.

    “Women tend not to remember the positive comments,” says Harrow. “We tend to slough them off. This will reinforce the great qualities that you may not register.”

  • Promote yourself by promoting others. When people working for you or with you do a great job, inform upper management. This kind of cheerleading is a good way to indirectly say something good about yourself, says Harrow. Your boss will know that you’re a good leader and that you know how to delegate.
  • Speak up. When women are interrupted, we tend to defer. Instead, show you’re not finished by holding up your hand like a stop sign, advises Harrow. If you’re having a hard time entering a conversation, latch on to the last thing someone says — “I love your idea of a bake sale” — and then continue on with your own idea: “Have you also thought of…” Or simply break in with a quick compliment: “Great point…”

Then say bye-bye to intimidation: Once you take charge, says Harrow, “you’ll remember the feeling and will want to feel it again.”