Student View

How Can I Make Myself Heard?

OUR NEW ADVICE COLUMN WILL GIVE YOU ALL THE HELP YOU NEED. FIRST UP: HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO LISTEN TO YOU.

“I’m the only girl on my high school robotics team, and my ideas are often overlooked. Once, when one of the guys was going around asking if anyone knew how to assemble a specific part of a robotic arm, he skipped me and asked the guy next to me. I burned with anger but didn’t budge because I don’t want any of my teammates to hate me.

Another time, I spent two days designing a solution and testing the physics behind it, but when I began to explain my design on the whiteboard, many of the guys tuned out or just said, “That’s not going to work.” They didn’t answer when I asked, “Why?” 

I’m not shy, I’m polite, and I have the same if not more technical expertise as the rest of the guys on the team, but sometimes I feel as if their egos get in the way of our success. How can I make sure my voice is really heard?”

THE EXPERT: KATE BRODOCK


Why We Asked Her: Kate, CEO of Women 2.0, has devoted her career to helping companies become more diverse and inclusive—and therefore more successful. 

After you take a deep breath, try addressing your teammates directly: “Could we clarify what we’re trying to accomplish here? We’ve been working on this design for two days, and we’re stuck. I have a solution that could work. Does it seem like a good idea to talk about it for 15 minutes to see if it’ll get us moving again?” or “I’d like to be able to contribute my thoughts on our robotic arm. Could I tell the team what I know?”

Putting it this way allows you to focus on what the team should be doing, and it highlights why you’re all there in the first place. If you keep experiencing this problem, speak with your adult team adviser to set team guidelines and advocate for your position. 

THE EXPERTS: LILLIAN HWANG, 16, left; and EMMA HAGEN, 16, right; members of the Code Red Robotics Team of Ithaca High School, Ithaca, NY

Why We Asked Them: They’re on a robotics team. 

LH: My advice would be to raise your hand and say, “Excuse me, I think you skipped over me.” Last year I wanted to help with programming the robot and I asked the lead programmer if there was anything I could do, but I didn’t get a real chance until this fall. Keep saying that you want to be involved and don’t give up.

EH: As the team’s drive coach, I do the strategy and all the tests to see who are the best candidates for driving the robot. We have alums who come back after they’ve graduated to help out. They generally wouldn’t listen to me and definitely wouldn’t ask me about strategy, although that was my role. They’d ask other guys before me. I spoke to them and said, “This is not OK. I am an equal member of this team. I was chosen for this job for a reason.” And they respected that. I’m the first girl drive coach ever, I think. 

THE EXPERT: DAN LIBMAN

Why We Asked Him: He’s a rhetoric professor who helps students shape messages and be heard. 

The first thing I want to tell you is that I am glad you’re not shy. I am also not shy, and over the years I have come to see not being shy as almost a superpower. People like us sometimes leave meetings a little embarrassed from having over-shared or made a dumb joke that no one laughed at, but at least we never go home wishing we had spoken up. Not being shy means you’re going to do great.

But of course, that doesn’t help you with your robotics team today. My guess is that everyone on the team is insecure about their ideas being taken seriously. Being consistent is the best course of action: Present yourself with confidence and be exactly who you are. If the boys don’t respect your contribution, then you shouldn’t care if they find you aggressive for asserting your opinions. Be brusque! Consider it a challenge to make yourself heard in the face of their indifference. If you make it a habit, you will soon become a stronger advocate for yourself. Remember, the people who listen to your ideas are the people you want to get along with. 

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