Webinar presenter Karin Montejo answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Using Your Words: Communicating Your Authority. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Has gender-biased language helped or hurt women in policing and why do women so often feel the need to follow along with gender bias language?
Karin Montejo: Gender bias language has done both — it covers both sides of the sword because when we see women and we have certain expectations that it’s not a woman’s job, that hurts us. A lot of times when we look to separate women from the men, and we do this in particular, we need to be police officers and not policewomen. We separate ourselves from the organization. We are working right now, working with Kim and NAWLEE and a few other organizations on trying to examine the verbiage and if it’s going to impact us negatively or not. There have been studies done but they are old. We are getting ready to start some new research now to see if this is actually going to be a positive or negative impact on women. We’re still studying it. It has been negative in the past but we don’t know where it is going to be right now in the future.
Audience Question: What are some of the ways we can practice our speaking techniques to become more powerful speakers?
Karin Montejo: I think what we talked about is that you recognize that you are devaluing yourself. I almost started this lecture with “may I say” and then I caught myself and recognized, “yes I may.” I don’t need that permission. It’s just being cognizant of how we speak. You can practice it at home. You can practice in with other areas where you don’t feel that there is a lot of negative backlash if, in fact, you try it and it doesn’t work to your benefit. Just the recognition of what we are doing. Ask your friends to help. My husband’s going to hate me for this but we were having an issue and he kept using a phrase that just made me absolutely crazy and every time that he would say it, I would buzz him because he didn’t recognize that he was saying it all the time. After reinforcing it, it became less and less of an issue. The same thing with the word, girl in the workplace, if you don’t let people continue it, you call it to their attention, it is a much easier way to start changing the way you speak. There are many different programs out there to work on asserting yourself in powerful language. There are a lot of things that we talked about today that you can do on your own at your own pace and be more comfortable and be more forceful in your conversations.
Audience Question: How do we best address situations when we work with drama queens and emotional wrecks especially if we find their behavior very annoying?
Karin Montejo: My recommendation would be don’t engage them. A drama queen is looking for an audience. If you just acknowledge that this is who they are and move right along, they don’t get that audience and they get to lose the drama part of it because nobody is paying attention to them. It’s annoying. You can bring it to their attention and you can say are you done, do your job and move forward from this. Don’t give them the attention they are looking for because they are looking for their audience.
Audience Question: Are there techniques that we can use to suppress emotion especially when we are in a highly charged emotion?
Karin Montejo: If it’s an escalating type of a situation, it’s very hard. If you are in a conversation with escalating emotions, my biggest recommendation would be to literally take a breath and step back. Give yourself just a few seconds to clear your mind because if you are rushing into a decision or if you are rushing into a discussion where consequences are going to impact somebody’s profession or career, you need to be clear-headed. If you can step back for a minute or step away, that would give you even more time, but sometimes you don’t have that luxury. Take a breath, step back mentally and then proceed. My best option would be to step away as I said, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Audience Question: How do you provide female staff the opportunity to promote or obtain additional training if you have a boss that has the mindset that a woman’s place in law enforcement is in dispatch if anywhere at all?
Karin Montejo: Okay, well hurray. What are the things you can do? You can’t change the climate of that organization if the bosses got that mindset but you can change the – I mean you can’t change the culture but you can change the climate. That’s what you have control over. Allowing the female officers to developmental assignments, give them an opportunity to do something that is not within their current purview. If they want to promote, show them the paperwork, show them the payroll. Show them the use of forces. Show them how to do that. Perhaps there is an unfunded project that they could be a part of. Take them to meetings, let them sit on boards, there is a variety of things that if the exposure is provided then the women can learn. It is not necessarily saying we are doing this specifically for this women but it is just an education and it could be done on all your officers but you are going to focus on your women, that gives them greater experience and allows them to prepare for taking the next step.
Audience Question: As an employee in a small office, how do you press management for clarification and written instruction?
Karin Montejo: Email could be your very best friend. You could email your supervisor and you just say verifying that this is the direction I got. You can parrot it back if you are having a verbal conversation: “Just to be clear I understand everything that you are saying this is what I heard.” But it is also good to have written documentation because people’s memories sometimes fade when things don’t go the way they planned. I would utilize email saying just clarification as per our last meeting this is what you expect me to do in this particular format and that way should things change, you have some documentation.
Audience Question: Do other languages and cultures carry similar communications challenges as what we face here?
Karin Montejo: I don’t know. I will say one thing as far as the socialization I had this conversation with some folks the other day. For hundreds of years and no matter where you are in the world, the socialization of women being gatherers and men being hunters is universal but as far as anything specific with that, I don’t have information.
Audience Question: As a supervisor of 10-15 officers, how do you practice being authoritarian without appearing to be aggressive or demanding?
Karin Montejo: You need to be your authentic selves. If you are not an authoritative and demanding person but you have to be consistent and you have to be substantial in your communication. I said earlier at the beginning of the lecture that if you say something, you mean it and you follow through with that. Don’t say it as a favor. Expect them to do it. Hold them accountable. They will recognize that you are following through on what you asked for. If they don’t follow through then a follow up is due. What’s missing? What needs to be done and then you set your goals and your timelines and your consequences. If you are not somebody who’s pounding on the table, that’s not going to work for you. You have to find your leadership style and drive. You might not have a single leadership style but you find out what you are comfortable with and you communicate that. As long as you’re an authentic leader and we’ll talk about that in January, you will be able to influence the people that are working for you. They’ll understand that that’s who you are all the time.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Using Your Words: Communicating Your Authority.