Happy New Year!

I’ve always loved the New Year and the promise of a new beginning that it brings. The New Year is a fresh start, another chance, an opportunity to make this year the best one ever. Potential is the word that comes to mind, which is perhaps why the tradition of making a New Year’s resolution is so appealing. For me, the beginning of a New Year inspires me to digest, reflect and take action.

A friend of mine recently revealed her resolution for last year was to be less crass, and that she was very successful at it, even though none of us (her circle of friends) seemed to notice. Still, she felt good about keeping to her resolution and said that this year she would continue to mind her manners (in certain company). We all assured her that we cherish what we consider her ability to tell it like it is without fear of judgment. We also rely on her to tell the rest of us to “grow a pair of ovaries.” What she considered crass, we considered bold.

In that same line of thought, words and actions that might be considered assertive by some, might be thought of by others as pushy, demanding, even…bitchy. And we good girls have a reputation to uphold… don’t we?

It’s with that in mind that I’ve made my resolution for 2013. It’s short and sweet, so that I can keep it present in my mind. It’s also broad enough to fit many different types of situations. Here it is:

Be Brave

In many ways I consider myself to be brave, especially when surrounded by those I know and love and trust. But in asserting my will amongst strangers, I flounder. If I think someone will say no, I tend to not ask. If the food or service at a restaurant is bad, instead of addressing it, I avoid that restaurant. If a friend slights me, I let it go until I’ve forgiven them (or forgotten it). In some ways this is considered being laid-back, but sometimes, it’s just plain lazy.

I am fortunate to work for a woman whom I admire very much, and she has taught me many things, including a vast number of tricks on Excel. But most importantly, she’s taught me to be more assertive in the workplace. In her line of work she gets told no all day long, and I’ve heard her numerous times ask of the no-sayer, but why? It helps that she’s a lawyer, but she’s also great at getting to the root of why someone is telling her no, and trying to convince them otherwise. If she’s successful at changing minds 50% of the time, then she’s reduced her rejection rate by half. And rejection isn’t only a facet of the publishing world; it’s a fact of life.

My son is another great example. Every morning after breakfast, he asks if he can have dessert. He’s never had dessert after breakfast, and yet he keeps asking. He’s six. He knows that the likelihood of me saying yes is next-to-nothing, but still, he asks. Why? Because by asking, he’s lost nothing, and there still exists the possibility that he will get breakfast dessert. And what a treat that would be!

So here it is, Be Brave. In work, in life, with loved ones and strangers. Being brave, for me, means inviting rejection. It means allowing for healthy, respectful dialogue. It means expressing my feelings and desires even when it’s uncomfortable or feels like work. Most importantly, it means asking for and telling people what I want. People are not mind readers, and subtlety only works on those who know you best. And for young women especially, my message to you, one that has taken me years to learn, is that it’s okay to be pushy, demanding, even bitchy, because really, those are just synonyms for assertive. And if being any of those things equates to getting what you want and deserve—equal pay, sick leave, a well-earned raise, a publishing deal, a day-off—then there is nothing wrong with that.

It’s like breakfast dessert!

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