Giving it away

giving1I had an interesting week last week; lots of meetings with powerful, smart businesswomen. I met maybe ten new women, got to know two relatively-new women better, met with six I know pretty well in the Biz Diva’s group, and one very old friend. This is what I heard: I’m good at this, I’m the best at this, I received an award for being the best at this in the county, in California, my clients say I’m great, I have great relationships with my customers. And I give away a lot of my time.

And the way they said it? Sounds like A LOT of time.

They said it with pride, as if it increased their value to their customers. They said it with shame, as if someone had already told them what a wimp it made them. They said it in a rush of embarrassment.

I cringed inwardly every time I heard women say this. Because? Men never say this. Never. That doesn’t mean we can’t say this, or we can’t just give away our time if we want to, or think about what this means to us. It’s just interesting.

Here’s some reasons why we give it away:

  • You are a very nice lady. This supposes the opposite is true: if you charge for your time, if you charge what you are worth, you are not nice. And interestingly, we may be unconsciously adding to this belief. I know a woman (whom we’ll call Service Provider) who does charge what she’s worth, and she’s very careful about not giving it away. A friend of mine hired Service Provider, paid her a lot of money for her work, and then, when she asked for some advice afterward over the phone, Service Provider said, “We can schedule a meeting to talk about that, if you’d like.” My friend said some not very nice things about her. She didn’t like her attitude. But I wondered if maybe she just resented the Service Provider for not giving it away. Interestingly, my friend had often recommended that I use that exact phrase with my clients who ask for free stuff. But when she said those not very nice things about this woman, my blood felt cold in my veins. I really don’t want people to say those not very nice things about me.
  • You don’t believe you are worth much. On some deep level, women absorb the message that they are worth less than men from birth. In my Greek family, the girls lived to support the boys. When I was at University, doing very well in my third year and loving it, my father told me that he couldn’t afford to send both my brother and I to school. My brother would be supporting a family, he said, and he had to put his money there. My brother didn’t even finish a year of junior college, but the message was clear. That is only one of many ways we are told to not compete with men.
  • This weekend I talked to a friend from childhood, who has come to adulthood in a very different culture from the one I did. We talked about our wild and rambunctious teenage years. “We were ho’s!” she said. I took exception to that. I didn’t remember anyone giving me money. Giving it away says: I am not a whore.

How I’m going to deal with this:

Become aware that this is what I do now. I’ve decided that I’d like to change this behavior, but at the same time I’d  like to be aware of the underlying reasons for doing this. I believe I need three things to do this:

  1. Be gentle with myself
  2. Be willing to be uncomfortable
  3. Practice “the pause.” I found this at the Savvy Women Earning blog ( It’s written by a very smart woman named Mikelann Valterrra. I’ve copied it here for convenience, but I high recommend you visit her site:

Using “the pause” instead of giving it away for free

A lot of women in business struggle with being overly nice. When people ask us to do something, such as give away our time for free, we have a hard time saying no. This is part of the “Good Girl Syndrome”- we want everyone to like us and we don’t want to make anyone mad. Often times we say yes when we should say no, and then silently berate ourselves. The energy cost of saying yes too much is very great. In fact, giving our time and services away for free, or at a discount, is one of the number one ways that women underearn. (Underearning is the pattern of consistently earning less then you need.)

Here is a tip to help with this. Use “the pause”. The next time someone asks you to do something for free or at a discount, refrain from answering. Simply say, “let me think about it. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” It is ALWAYS okay to ask for time to think about something. Once you have some distance, and the person is not right in front of you, it is easier to think clearly. If saying yes is not in your best interest, you can plan your response. “Yes, I see the need, but all my extra time and energy is spoken for right now.” “Thanks for the opportunity, but it simply doesn’t work for my business to do that right now.” Using the pause helps the internal good girl gain perspective.

Do you give it away? Let us know how you feel about this in the comments!

This post was written by Virginia Reuter of Ardentio for the Biz Diva.