I don't know anything, right?
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned while building Diem is that women and nonbinary people often have difficulty acknowledging what they know. As a result, they also often lack the confidence to share what they know with others in a public setting. I think this stems back to two things: our fear of taking up space and “imposter syndrome.”
“One reason women tend to speak less at meetings, in my view, is that they don’t want to come across as talking too much. It’s a verbal analogue to taking up physical space.” –– Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and the author of many books on conversation and gender.
It’s generally believed that women talk more than men. Yet, research has proved this theory false many times over. In fact, women and men basically say the same number of words each day. But in public settings such as professional meetings and in classrooms, men tend to talk more on average.
Why does this happen? There are multiple well-researched reasons, but I’m most interested in our collective fear, as women and non binary people, to not take up air time. In these public settings, studies have shown that women tend to use fewer words and ask fewer questions. Linguist Robin Lakoff’s research goes as far as proving that, historically, girls are socialized to use a "non-forceful style" of language that generally conforms women to the social norms of femininity. The use of "gender-appropriate language," in turn, has denied women access to power and reinforced social inequality. Words really matter here.
This refrain in speech does not exist as prevalently for women in private settings, Tannen points out in her book You're the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women's Friendships. In female friendships, in contrast to male friendships, women tend to talk at greater length about personal topics. For most people reading this, that won’t be surprising. Research has shown that women bond through deep conversation and men bond by doing activities together. It’s why we, as women, feel the need to turn to female friends to crowdsource our way through the world.
So shouldn’t our uninhibited ability to talk in private settings make us better equipped at talking and sharing what we know publicly?
Unfortunately, that’s where our old friend “imposter syndrome” comes in. I personally hate the term imposter syndrome, by the way. It focuses fault on the person experiencing it versus the systemic environments that cause a person to lack confidence. Due to how acclimatized we are feeling unconfident and uncomfortable, upon entering even the “safest ” and most comfortable settings, we often need help recognizing what we know to be able to step into our worth. It’s also worth noting, that once we find that confidence and comfort, there’s little stopping us from reaching the conversation levels we have in private settings.
An additional layer to all of this that I find particularly interesting is the impact that performative social media has on compounding our perception of our own worth and abilities. Over the past 10+ years, we have existed in environments that incentivize us to share the best of ourselves, leading to countless hours manicuring opinions, editing images, or agonizing over a post only to give up and share nothing at all. Research on the percentage of contributors in social platforms backs this up; in most online communities, 1% of the userbase are a “heavy contributor”, 9% are an “intermittent contributor” and 90% are “lurkers.” How does this breakdown work if we all talk equal amounts IRL? Are “social” platforms just developing technology that further sidelines most of the population in favor of the loudest group of people? If that’s the case, what happens to the knowledge and wisdom that the rest of the world—the “lurkers”—bring?
We’ve seen this phenomenon play out so many times during user research calls at Diem; “I’m not an influencer why would anyone want to listen to me?”, “I don’t know what knowledge I can share that would help others.” Yet almost all participants quickly realize they have a lot to share when simply asked the question—“What do your friends come to you for advice on?”
I asked the same question of the Diem team last week, and in just our small team of 8, the following list of topics were surfaced: finding a therapist, relationship guidance, skincare and beauty regimens, reproductive health issues (even though they have no medical qualification), finding high quality clothes, marketing advice, managing mental health, motherhood venting, how to get into business school, perspectives on the latest books or TV shows. That’s a ton of expertise from 8 people.
As humans, we connect through shared experiences and I think of every person’s unique experience as a well of knowledge that someone else can learn from. We too often minimize our experiences and qualifications. So now I want to ask you: what was the last thing your friends came to you for advice on? What advice did you give them?
What we’re reading…
🤰Against the mandatory secret trimester. “Like many other decisions women make about their bodies, when and whether to go public with a pregnancy should be a choice, not simply determined by social convention.” (The New York Times)
Who we’re Dieming with this week…
To “Diem with” someone means to candidly exchange knowledge. Here’s a selection of knowledge going live (in the Diem app) this week. You can listen live or on your own time, all conversations are recorded.
What it’s like to be single, really TODAY, 2PM PST | 5PM EST with dating podcaster Liana Pavane & dating coach Marla Goldstein. Listen live, here.
Business & Babies: How we do both TODAY 3PM PST | 6PM EST with Amy Fraser & Jina Kim. Listen live, here.
Everything you wanted to know about freelancing TODAY 4PM PST | 7PM EST with Megan Raynor & Darcy Moore. Listen live, here.
Has the COVID-19 vaccine changed your period? WEDNESDAY 10AM EST | 3PM GMT Exploring new research studies that show cycle changes are a (previously, unrecognized) side effect of the vaccine, with Natasha Richardson (Spoiler alert: you should still get vaccinated). Listen live, here.
Assimilation vs. Integration in personal life & work WEDNESDAY 11AM PST | 2PM EST | 7PM GMT with Hustle Crew consultant & coach, Taz Latif. Listen live, here.
Managing mental health in high pressure jobs THURSDAY 9AM PST | 12PM EST with Alexa Meyer founder of mental health start-up, Coa. Listen live, here.
Creating your own PR as an entrepreneur THURSDAY 2PM PST | 5PM EST with Lara Vandenberg, founder of Publicist. Listen live, here.
Why do we play games while dating? THURSDAY 2.30 PST | 5.30PM EST with matchmaker, relationship coach & LEVELS founder, April Beyer. Listen live, here.
The intro to web3 you’ve always wanted FRIDAY 10AM EST | 3PM GMT with unblcd founder Dayna Trocki DeStefano. Listen live, here.
Building a fintech business as a woman SUNDAY 2PM EST | 7PM GMT with Juno founder Margot DeBroglie. Listen live, here.
ICYMI, we now send out The Briefing every Friday. The Briefing is our round-up sent to all people in the Diem app, to receive the weekly digest (and listen to all the above wisdom!) download and join the Diem app via App Store or Google Play.
See you next week,