Tag Archives: range of acceptable behavior

Adam Galinsky: How to speak up for yourself

Here is an inspiring and apropos Ted Talk for the Beautiful Kingdom Warriors to learn from.  Adam Galinsky is a social psychologist who “teaches people all over the world how to inspire others, speak up effectively, lead teams and negotiate successfully.”  In these 15 minutes, he explains why being a woman creates a low-power double bind, and offers research-based tools for expanding your power/acceptable range of behavior:

Here are my top takeaways from the video (I’ve sliced and diced and emphasized the full transcript):

Each of us have something called a range of acceptable behavior. When we stay within our range, we’re rewarded. When we step outside that range, we get punished – we get dismissed or demeaned or even ostracized. Or we lose that raise or that promotion or that deal.

Your power determines your range. When we have lots of power, our range is very wide. We have a lot of leeway in how to behave. But when we lack power, our range narrows. We have very little leeway. The problem is that when our range narrows, that produces something called the low-power double bind – if we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed, but if we do speak up, we get punished.

The gender double bind is women who don’t speak up go unnoticed, and women who do speak up get punished. Oftentimes we see a difference between a man and a woman and think, “Biological cause. There’s something fundamentally different about the sexes.” But in study after study, I’ve found that a better explanation for many sex differences is really power. The low-power double bind means that we have a narrow range, and we lack power. 

We need to find ways to expand our range. And two things really matter. The first: you seem powerful in your own eyes. The second: you seem powerful in the eyes of others. When I feel powerful, I feel confident, not fearful; I expand my own range. When other people see me as powerful, they grant me a wider range. So we need tools to expand our range of acceptable behavior.

The first tool I’m going to give you got discovered in negotiations in an important finding. On average, women make less ambitious offers and get worse outcomes than men at the bargaining table.  Except when they advocate for others, they discover their own range and expand it in their own mind. They become more assertive. This is sometimes called “the mama bear effect.”

But sometimes, we have to advocate for ourselves. One of the most important tools we have to advocate for ourselves is perspective-taking. It’s simply looking at the world through the eyes of another person. When I take your perspective, and I think about what you really want, you’re more likely to give me what I really want.

Another way to be assertive but still be likable is to signal flexibility. When you give people a choice among options, it lowers their defenses, and they’re more likely to accept your offer.

When I’ve asked the question around the world when people feel comfortable speaking up, the number one answer is: “When I have social support in my audience; when I have allies.” We want to get allies on our side. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways is be a mama bear. When we advocate for others, we expand our range in our own eyes and the eyes of others, but we also earn strong allies.

Another way we can earn strong allies is by asking other people for adviceWhen we ask others for advice, they like us because we flatter them, and we’re expressing humility. And this really works to solve the self-promotion double bind – if we don’t advertise our accomplishments, no one notices. And if we do, we’re not likableBut if we ask for advice about one of our accomplishments, we are able to be competent in their eyes but also be likeable.

Another time we feel more confident speaking up is when we have expertise. Expertise gives us credibility. When we have high power, we already have credibility. We only need good evidence. When we lack power, we don’t have the credibility. We need excellent evidence.

And one of the ways we can come across as an expert is by tapping into our passion. We give ourselves the courage, in our own eyes, to speak up, but we also get the permission from others to speak up. 

I highly recommend you watch the video and think about how you can expand your own range of acceptable behavior – by advocating for others, gaining allies and social support, seeing things from others’ perspectives and offering flexible solutions, and asking for advice.  Good stuff.

img_3767I was obviously connecting the dots on how women are subjugated in patriarchal religious denominations under the assumption of biological differences, when the real problem is lack of power.  Women are punished for their “ambition” to follow the call of God on their life.

I have seen the power of advocating for other women in the Church to have opportunities and credibility.  I love being a mama bear in the Church and encourage you to speak up for others as well.  Think your “Director of Children’s Ministry” should have the same “Pastor” title as the other staff members?  Speak up!  Think your friend has the gift of teaching?  Speak up!  See gifts in the women around you?  Tell them!  They probably aren’t hearing that from many others.  In doing these things, your own confidence will grow.  And couldn’t we all use more confidence?


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