How speaking up across the ages inspired my new book

smartgirlcover1It’s publication day for the ebook version of The Smart Girl’s Guide To Getting What You Want! And next month, on April 27th, the lovely printed book will hit the shelves.

I was thrilled to see that the bible of the US publishing business Publishers Weekly reviewed my book and called it an ’empowering tome’.

My aim in writing the book was to give girls and women, sisters in the struggle to make our voices heard and to behave assertively with grace, wit and style, some practical suggestions and ideas about how to speak and act in challenging situations – and how to have fun along the way.

There are many barriers which continue to prevent women from engaging with challenges and which cause them to draw back from the table rather than lean forward. (Very smart, if you picked up the reference to Sheryl Sandberg’s book! More of that later.) Fear and anxiety hold us back, fear of not being liked, or of being thought of as aggressive.

Persistent negative stereotyping and double standards diminish us all, gals and guys alike. You know how it goes:

  • Men are ambitious, women are pushy
  • Men discuss, women chat
  • Men are committed, women are hard
  • Men are passionate, women are hysterical

 It would be funny if it weren’t so damaging.

A major barrier is lack of confidence and lack of know-how. I hope that my book will help you in both these areas. When we know what to say, what form of words and what body language to use, we can go ahead with confidence, whether it is to deal with a tricky situation at work, or with a friend or family member, or when we’re out and about. And don’t forget, it’s about saying the nice things as well as the tough things.

Speaking up: the common thread between Chaucer, Sandberg and Crowell

What links Geoffrey Chaucer, the writer from the Middle Ages known as the Father of English Literature, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell?

They all have something to say about speaking up.

In Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale, a lovely goddess called Proserpina intervenes in a marital situation and gives the woman a gift to help her get out of the trouble she’s in.

The gift is that the woman, and all women after her, will have a ready answer to fight back when they are under attack.

It worked for the woman in the poem (not that she deserved it, actually, but who are we to be judgemental?) but oh dear, it hasn’t quite worked for us all.

Maybe in writing this book and in giving suggestions for what-to-say-when I was sub-consciously channelling Proserpina.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s book about women, work and leadership, presents an energetic and compelling argument for women to engage more with the issues which prevent them from being as successful as their male counterparts (or as Sheryl herself, of course.)

Even if you don’t want to be a top executive or have a seat on the board or run a company or be a boss, the points about making your voice heard still apply.

You might not want to lean in totally, but you might want to lean in just a little, get your elbows on the table, be more than silent onlooker at the feast. You can always lean back again.

I hope that my book will give you some of the tools that will help you to engage and to ask for what you want in all situations.

The title of Rodney Crowell’s moving song, Things I Wish I’d Said, sums it up.

The song describes the singer’s last meeting with his dying father, and the emotions speak to us all regardless of gender or position.

The song makes us think of the importance of saying what we feel, of not being scared to speak from the heart, of being ready to say the words that put right what’s wrong. He has this opportunity and is forever thankful for it:

I don’t have to live in dread

Over things I wish I’d said

There you are. Don’t be scared, don’t live to regret not having said the things that matter. All you need is a little confidence and a little know-how.

The ebook of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want by Mary Hartley is now available at Amazon worldwide for Kindle, at Barnes & Noble for Nook ereaders, and at Kobo. The ebook is published by Watkins Publishing and Osprey Publishing in the US, UK and worldwide.

The print book of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want by Mary Hartley will be available on April 27th and pre-orders are being taken at Barnes & NobleAmazon worldwideFoyles in the UK, Waterstones in the UK and can be ordered through all other good bookstores. The book is published by Watkins Publishing and Osprey Publishing in the US, UK and worldwide.