Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are!
An old phrase, but with knowledge that still applies today.
In life, the people we surround ourselves with can shape who we become. This holds true for friendships, where relationships can either foster personal growth or contribute to stress. Unfortunately, societal competition often persists among women, perpetuating stereotypes like a friend stealing your husband or your job, and hindering authentic connections.
Women friendships in the workplace
In the workplace, women managers often face the challenge of proving their capabilities and earning respect. Despite this, many women bosses still face interruptions. These factors make it difficult for women to both be a friend and create friendships in the workplace because people can confuse a nice, polite person with a permissive person with no authority.
Additionally, language barriers further complicate matters, with interruptions and corrections causing communication difficulties for non-native speakers. As a result of interruptions and corrections, you might lose focus, forget what you wanted to say and feel like a child who needs help with everything, including saying basic things in a language that you are competent in. If this is your case, remember the importance of patience. After all, we don’t acquire fluency in a new language overnight.
Another point that can help you is to position yourself assertively and clearly. If you have a work colleague who often interrupts with language corrections, you can point out that you need to finish your reasoning. Once you’re done speaking, they can explain all the nuances of grammar that are necessary. Only those who have lived through immigration know how unpleasant this situation can be. As well as being intimidating, it also demeans the person who is trying hard to communicate.
Balancing authority and collaboration
Women leaders sometimes overcompensate for insecurities by asserting excessive authority to legitimize her position. And at that moment she may not be supportive and collaborative with other women.
It’s essential to recognize that true leadership involves more than just authority—it requires sensitivity, clear communication, and understanding individual team members’ needs and strengths so that everyone works together harmoniously.
Unfortunately, we’ve all had a female boss, teacher or other figure who, instead of inspiring us to be better professionals, feels the need to reinforce her authority due to insecurity and lack of assertiveness. This might even manifest as humiliation or bullying. If this sounds like you, remember that you don’t have to be feared to be admired and that your attitude so greatly impacts someone else’s life. You can listen attentively to the needs of others and still be respected; you can have moments of relaxation and still demand productivity; you can correct in private and praise in public; you can choose the best words to guide a colleague through their duties.
We women already live constantly in a world of comparison with other women who are prettier, taller, smarter, more professionally competent with more specialized training, better mothers, wives and friends than us, so we don’t need more critics, but more supporters.
Fostering positive women friendships
I know that so far I’ve talked about the negative aspects of female friendship, such as comparison and reinforcing insecurity. But when we are more aware and have our therapy up-to-date, instead of comparing ourselves, we can be a source of help and support for other women. So when you notice a woman feeling insecure, for example, you can talk to her about it, you can encourage her.
We can always have kind and encouraging words for each other—especially if you occupy a prominent position in someone’s life. For example, if you’re a teacher, correct her lovingly, keep pointing out the mistakes but telling her that you believe she has the potential to correct them. If you’re a mother, also remember this line. Instead of saying your daughter doesn’t do anything right, that she’s a source of stress, point out the things she’s managed to do and why you think that if she decides to improve some aspects of her life, you’re sure she’ll succeed.
Women friendships make us stronger, it makes us find understanding, support and affection in times of difficulty.
Many of the fears and insecurities we see in other women we also share, which is why we can empathize so much. Women’s history is always surrounded by fears. After all, there isn’t a powerful woman who isn’t afraid of not being good enough, afraid of being abandoned, afraid of being attacked, afraid of being exposed, afraid of growing old, afraid of everything that makes us vulnerable. And how good it is to have someone with whom you can open up and who will genuinely understand these fears because she is also living or has lived through these experiences. How nice it is to see a woman who inspires you saying that she believes in you and your work, how nice it is to have the recognition of your mother or another woman who was fundamental in your childhood.
Friendship between women is a powerful tool for overcoming fears and insecurities so that we can support each other.