The Best Piece of Advice I Learned from Katharine Hepburn

The late, great Katharine Hepburn was one Bodacious Woman! Of all the ground breaking things she accomplished, there’s one piece of advice she gave that has helped me over and over again. It’s this:

Don’t over explain; don’t over complain.

Hepburn knew it would be tough to be a successful female actress in the male-dominated acting world of the 1930s. She didn’t let that dissuade her. She worked hard and smart.

One of her smart, Bodacious Ways was not to express her opinions as if she were giving testimony to a jury. How many good girls do you know who do that? I’ve seen time and again in the workplace a competent, intelligent woman explain to the nth degree why she made a decision, including all the background events of who said what and who did what and then what happened, and then and then…

I cringe as I watch this competent woman’s stature and power seep out of the room. It’s just not necessary! In fact, it goes against her entire effort to be thought of as credible and to be taken seriously.

It’s so much more powerful to say what you want or what you did, add a few words, and then shut up. If others have questions, they’ll ask. And you can decide if and how much to answer.

The same principle applies when it comes to complaining. We all know life isn’t always a good time and there’s much to gripe about if we want to. But, big-time complainers are downright irritating.

When it’s important enough, Bodacious Women do something about it. They take a stand. They go to the person, express how they feel, say their peace, and do their part to cause things to change. Going on and on won’t help. In fact, it usually hurts your stance.

When you keep expounding on how awful the event was, how you felt, how it affected others, what that means for your future, how you can’t imagine anyone being so mean, and on and on, then you’ve beaten the other person up so much they either come back with a vengeance or relinquish themselves to your battering and resent you for it.

Bodacious Women honor themselves as well as honor others. Explaining or complaining in deliberate measure honors you. Overdoing it doesn’t honor anyone and zaps your bodacious power. Don’t over explain, don’t over complain. Thanks Katharine.

Copyright (c) 2007 Mary Foley