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Imposter Syndrome in Communication: Six Practical Actions to Take Now

by PowerSpeaking, Inc.     Jul 26, 2017 2:54:24 PM

Have you ever felt like a fraud at work? You’re not alone. While many high-achieving women and entrepreneurs share this feeling, it is common for everyone. Over an estimated 70% of people have experienced this and similar feelings at one time or another. In corporate America it’s easy to feel like you’re not competent enough. Over time, this chronic selfdoubt or Imposter Syndrome can impact your productivity and prospects. Imposter Syndrome is a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even with opposite information. It's experienced internally, and can be hard to identify from an outside perspective.

Figure 1 7.21blog.png

In order to be successful, you must manage yourself first. Without an internal compass defining what makes you successful, self-doubt can creep in and make you feel like you're not worth the effort of your actions. In communication you will not be direct and speak up less often. Imposter syndrome is not always obvious, but it is impactful because your career success is only as good as your ability to value it. As shown in Figure 1, Imposter Syndrome happens when you think your opinion is incomplete as compared to others. By taking time for yourself with these six practical action steps you will better resist self-doubt, speak up, and become more successful.

 1) Manage Self-Doubt: Like a puppy, this takes constant attention! Find pride in being humble and resist making comparisons to your younger self or others. Take time to identify your core values and create your own definition of success. How can you work craft success each day?

2) Recognize The Imposter: We all feel like a disappointment at one time or another. If the thought of work makes you anxious, it might be a sign you need to spend time addressing your internal feelings. Are you making decisions in order to avoid something, or are you actively directing your career toward what you value? Taking time to notice The Imposter Syndrome in your behavior will enable you to resolve how to change it. 

3) Embrace Success and Failure: You have direct control over the day. Don’t use excuses or let external factors influence the choices you make. When you speak, use “I” language in the present tense. Notice the outcomes of your decisions and try to understand the motivations behind each, reserving judgement. By taking time to recognize achievement and reflect on failure, you prepare and hone future decision-making skills.

4) Be Objective: Still having trouble recognizing your own value? You’re not alone. Try writing out who you are like a character in a book. Where is this person going in life? Notice what makes you unique and practice speaking to those strengths around others. There is a fine line between arrogance, aggression, and asserting yourself. An assertive person speaks to personal strengths in order to benefit the group, and does not expect individual opinion to be absolute.

5) Be Your Boss: Take the insecurity out of your hands by challenging the relationship to how you speak. If you were to verbalize the internal dialogue aloud about a boss, would it be acceptable? Then it shouldn't be acceptable for you either. Limit negative critique and set clear expectations for how you want to be seen in the workplace. Boundary setting happens on many levels, and starts with the relationship with yourself.

6) Be an Assertive Speaker: To become more resilient and avoid self-doubt all together, it’s important to learn how to become an assertive speaker. In the previous blog we reviewed how to be heard at work and acknowledged that mastery takes time and repetition. Be forgiving and remember -  with sensitivity to the audience, anyone can be more assertive by:

- Use body language:  Maintain a comfortable gaze, avoid shaking and shifting weight.

- Use an even emotional tone: Be empathetic without sounding reactionary 

- Be an active listener: Keep an open perspective to feedback, and present your opinion without fear of rejection. Assertive speakers are able to empathize with others and present their opinions independently. 

- Avoid submissive language: Terms like, "just", "really", "I guess", "basically" and an improperly used "sorry" leave the audience feeling less comfortable and can cause others to lose respect for you.

To be an assertive person, you must overcome Imposter Syndrome and learn to be a direct communicator. Practice these steps to build your resilience to The Imposter, and visit our site to learn more about all of our communications courses like SpeakingUP: Presenting to Executives. 


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Chris Brannen

Chris Brannen

Master Facilitator and Coach, PowerSpeaking, Inc.

Rolf Wolter

Ralf Wolter

Master Facilitator and Coach, PowerSpeaking, Inc.

Nicole Wajer

Nicole Wajer

Technical Solutions Architect, Cisco

About the Author

PowerSpeaking, Inc.

Topics: Speaking Up, Leadership Skills, Communication Skills, Management Skills, Leadership Training, Women in Business, Imposter Syndrome, Assertive Speaking, Women in Tech, Professional Development, Assertive Management, Overcoming Self-Doubt

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