Call it out!
When dealing with a Likeability bias situation, there is an approach that advocates naming the elephant in the room and talking about it! The problem is the elephant is not always obvious to many in the room. Many electors and selectors will not be aware of their own prescriptive bias. They will be unaware of the likeability double bind.
When they find the female candidate that they are considering to be not likeable and not as good, it’ll be caused by their limbic system’s sub conscious, emotional reaction to the dissonance between societal paradigms and what they are seeing in the candidate. That limbic, emotional response will be seamlessly followed up by their neo-cortex which will find plenty of rational supporting evidence to validate their feeling and assure them, that theirs is a perfectly logical and evidence-based decision. Raising their awareness of this needs to be done carefully, if it’s to have the desired positive effect. A head on challenge would risk seeming aggressive, pushy and even less likeable. Thankfully there is clear advice on how to do this from no less a source than the ancient Greeks. It’s called refutation.
Part of Greek rhetoric involved proactive refutation of the other persons argument before they make it. The technique is to refute their point of view early in the statement of your argument so that you almost take the steam out of the issue. What you do is to clearly and openly outline the issue or objection you face. You bring out into the open what people may be thinking (consciously or even sub consciously), which then enables you to offer the counter argument. What this might sound like is, “I’ve done XYZ in my career and achieved ABC. Now some people might think that makes me driven, aggressive, and uncaring, which of course is not what we expect women to be, I’m sure however that you are more sophisticated than that, you do not buy into those anachronistic stereotypes of women. Yes, I work hard and yes, I compete to win, but that makes me someone who strives constantly for the good of my constituents / community and that’s what I would do for you if elected / selected.”
This technique works well wherever dealing with some actual or potential form of bias. I heard a black candidate, start a selection speech in which she was the only person of colour in the room, with something like, “ You may have noticed something different about me (pause) yes, it’s true I’m from Croydon” A deft touch of humour but a subtle acknowledgement of the absurdity of being biased against someone on the basis of their skin colour.
Next week we discuss the 3rd option – make it your strength! Download the full article here