Leave No Room for Doubt

I live for those moments on the job when I have to think on my feet, when the reams of meticulous preparation recede into the background and I am forced to act and speak from a place of instinct. As a lawyer advancing in my career, these extemporaneous speaking opportunities hold increasingly higher stakes: responding to a judge’s question on the fly, cross-examining a witness on facts I just heard for the very first time.

But to own those moments, I have had to suppress the messages I have been taught since childhood about how women should act: “Don’t speak out of turn. Don’t speak at all unless you are sure you are right. When you do speak, make sure it’s from a carefully scripted answer, preferably vetted by someone with more experience than you.”

These messages—well-meaning as they may be—cultivate an ethic of risk-averse perfectionism that holds as its premise, “You are not good enough as you are.”

My advice: Take the chance that maybe you are good enough. Throw away the script. Be attuned to your audience, calibrate your tone, and speak with confidence from a deeply honest place. Leave no room to doubt yourself.