Own the Room

Traditionally, when women want to “make an entrance” they do it with what they wear, their hair and make-up, and who they arrive with…the result of decades of messages and ongoing brainwashing by the media about what makes a woman significant or important: we are told we can “own the room” when people find us physically attractive.

In my opinion, every sentient being should take whatever time they need to gussy up. That includes women, men and animals. It’s a way of taking care of ourselves.

But if we are making ourselves pretty because we hope people will like us better, listen to what we say, or take us seriously…really ladies…it’s time for a change.

For as long as I can remember, people have put me in leadership roles. I have rarely solicited leadership roles although I graciously accepted what was asked of me.

At the same time, as a younger woman, I would feel a terrible ambivalence. I was caught between wanting to help others and having an opportunity for personal growth, and the negative voices in my head taunting me (through the voice of my mother) with phrases such as “who do you think you are” (and at that time I truly had no idea who I was) and the worst “don’t get too big for your britches” (as if having confidence were a cardinal sin!)

Attitude Adjustment

It took me many years to understand and overcome this negative programming and thankfully I now have no ambivalence about speaking up, taking charge or publicly disagreeing with others. Of course 20 plus years as a mediator and conflict management educator has helped me build my own sturdy communications toolbox!

There are more than words in my toolbox. A big part of owning the room is nonverbal – it’s attitude.

This weekend I went to two big local musical events, and both included dancing under the stars. One night I went to hear an amazing salsa band and the next night I heard a blues concert.

Whether you are watching Salsa dancers or blues dancers, the individual or couple that catches your eye has much more than technique. They have attitude. They are talking with their partners with their bodies and you are eavesdropping on their conversation.

The best salsa dancers have amazing control of their bodies: they are communicating sexual tension and authority in every step. Salsa dancers have a great deal of control and they are dancing with authority. Blues dancing is more improvisational – when you see an amazing blues dancer he or she is someone who is grounded in the earth and has a lot of rhythm.

Same with owning the room. Your body does the talking. A short article in last Sunday’s New York Times sums up some basics. And of course that fabulous Amy Cuddy Ted Talk where she shows us power poses that help you expand your authority.

Dancing is a great way to start owning your body as well as the space around you. Then when you, in your role as a business leader, want to stand up, speak out and have people listen to you, you can take your dance floor attitude right to the board room.

Think, speak and live deliberately! Dance!

To your success,


To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking. Agnes de Mille

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