IN PURSUIT: Alicia Menendez, Episode 11 Transcript

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Do you care about whether, or not other people like you? Chances are, the answer is yes, especially if you are a woman. Women are stuck in an impossible bind. At work, strong women are criticized for being cold, and warm women are seen as pushovers. It’s a catch-22 that is infuriating and an unavoidable evil. Just ask Alicia Menendez.

Alicia Menendez, author of The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are, joins host Amy Elisa Jackson for a discussion about likability in the workplace, how it can become a trap particularly for women, and what you can do to break free from its constraints. 

Alicia Menendez is an MSNBC anchor and host of the Latina to Latina podcast. Dubbed “Ms. Millennial” by The Washington Post, “journalism’s new gladiator” by Elle, and a “content queen” by Marie Claire, her interviews and reporting have appeared on ABC News, Bustle, FusionTV, PBS and Vice News. In this episode of IN PURSUIT, she and host Amy Elisa dig into how women, and sometimes men as well, struggle to balance appearing to be nice but not too nice, successful but not too successful, assertive but not too much. Being “likable” proves to be a limiting label. Alicia and Amy Elisa cover how obsessing about being likable can affect your prospects of promotion, salary negotiations, and even everyday manager-employee dynamics.

Amy Elisa Jackson: I’m Amy Elisa Jackson and this is In Pursuit the podcast from Glassdoor. In every episode we share the real stories of people navigating life’s most pivotal moments at the intersection of the personal and professional. In this episode, we speak to Alicia Menendez, MSNBC anchor and host of the Latina to Latina podcast. Dubbed Ms. Millennial by The Washington Post, Journalism’s New Gladiator by Elle and a Content Queen by Marie Claire, her interviews and reporting have appeared everywhere from ABC News to Bustle to VICE News. Today we’re talking to her about our new book The Likability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are. Alicia Menendez welcome to In Pursuit. Alicia what inspired you to write the book the Likeability Trap?

Alicia Menendez: I am a person who cares a lot about being well liked. It took me a while to get to that realization, I didn’t always want to admit that to myself, but when I finally did I started seeing how it played out in my personal relationships at work and I originally thought I was going to write a book about being a person who cares a lot and the process of learning to care less, sort of like an eat, pray love for likeability. And so as I started to talk to other women, I talked with a lot of women who like me care very much about what others think of them, that didn’t surprise me as much as talking to women who don’t care at all and who still felt like they were paying a price for being so brazenly themselves. I imagine that women who don’t care, we’re just sort of out there living their best lives, dancing like nobody was watching, but it turns out even those women particularly at work pay a price and so that became very interesting to me, right? This idea that we often frame likeability as a question of caring and not caring and in reality we live in a culture where we expect women to care, and until we grapple with that, we’ll never get out from under these questions.

Amy Elisa Jackson: You wrote this book over the course of sort of two pregnancies, multiple job transitions and dozens of flights. How did your conviction or your feelings about likeability evolve over time, right? Because there’s not just this one set perspective on likeability and then you just write the book and there’s no questions asked, there’s no pauses or second guessing. How did your conviction about the topic evolve over time?

Alicia Menendez: Well, Amy thank you for getting to the acknowledgements. I feel like nobody else even the people I acknowledged did not get there, so I tip my hat to you. I anticipated that the process of doing this would lead to me caring less and in some ways it did. In some ways though, it also really made me treasure and value and get clear about what it is about likeability that I find important. I want other people in my presence to feel seen, to feel valued, to feel heard, all of that is important and I think that there’s a way in which to frame that, that is about empathy, that I want to make sure that I preserve what I want to tease apart from that is changing myself, hemming myself in response to other people’s perceptions of me and really coming to terms and I am not there yet, I am trying, with the reality that you cannot make someone else like you, you just can’t. I can show up as the best, most authentic wonderful version of myself and how other people will receive that person is completely outside of my control.

Alicia Menendez: So that’s one piece of what I came to terms with and then the other piece because I began focusing so much on women at work and the reality of what women are up against at work and the fact that we may not for a long time be able to all say to hell with it when it comes to likeability at work. Well then if I’m doing some performance of myself at work and I’m working 40 plus hours a week, why in my real life, my non-work life would I ever want to be around people who require me to show up as anything less than my full and authentic self, and so I found that very, very empowering, right? We don’t get a lot of time, we don’t get a lot of time with the people we love, we don’t get a lot of time with the people we most feel ourselves around, so I started trimming the fat. I phased out relationships that I felt weren’t serving me, I shifted my attention and time and love to people who I felt really got me and I did that without judgment for those past relationships, but with an eye toward really investing in the people and things that matter.

Amy Elisa Jackson: How did some of the folks that you’ve interviewed for the book, either women who are titans of industry, or just people from all walks of life, what did those interviews really shed light on for you? Was there something that was most surprising, or an anecdote about success and likeability that really stuck with you and helped you in your journey to sort of buck the likeability trap? Continue reading here…

Original: Glassdoor Blog

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