Metro Detroit speaker on why women need to build verbal self-defense skills

According to Detroit speaker Laura Khalil, women need to think beyond S.I.N.G. when it comes to self-defense. That's because much aggression and violence toward women take the form of words.

This type of training is particularly relevant to women in Metro Detroit, says Khalil, because the automotive industry and its suppliers employ so many of us.

"As we all know, this is a primarily male-dominated industry which can feel intimidating for women and can pose unique challenges for women who want to climb the corporate ladder," she says.

That's why Khalil is leading a workshop on how to speak up when the pressure is on.

"Being able to advocate for ourselves is absolutely critical to women as they grow their careers," she says.. "Practicing verbal self-defense can help women feel more comfortable negotiating and stating their worth and getting the type of projects and increased responsibilities that will ultimately help those who want to ascend to the C-Suite, more likely to do so."

Metromode spoke with Khalil to find out more on what verbal self-defense is all about and why women need to include it in their arsenal.

What is verbal self-defense?


Verbal self-defense teaches students how to easily handle uncomfortable situations that normally cause us to tense up and freeze. By using specific verbal self-defense techniques, we can regain our power in those uncomfortable situations without being overly aggressive, nasty or bitchy.


When we freeze up, we feel powerless. And it’s only minutes or hours later that we think of a comeback or how we should have responded, and we beat ourselves up for not being quick enough to respond.


The good news is that there are specific techniques anyone can use to respond to these situations.


Give us an example?


What woman hasn’t experienced catcalling or unwanted advances? Verbal self-defense provides techniques to be able to break the freeze response and verbally respond in those situations, stop the behavior and take back your power.


As an example, I was in a Lyft last week on my way to the airport. The driver commented on my looks no less than twelve times within one block. The first comment I received graciously, but as he continued to comment on my appearance, I became more and more uncomfortable.


At one point he said, “You must get bothered all the time. Beautiful girls always get bothered. You are so beautiful.”


I chose to respond and said clearly and plainly, “And that’s why you won’t bother me. Because you must know how annoying it is to bothered.”


Using his own language and redirecting it back at him in a simple, clear manner completely stopped the behavior. It made him aware of what he was doing and that I believed he could be a better man by not bothering me.


I had placed a clear boundary, took back my power, and he was completely respectful the rest of the 40-minute drive.


Do women need this more than men? If so, why?


While we can all learn to be better communicators, there are a number of issues specific to women that I address.


In the workplace, women experience the brunt of mansplaining, interrupting, credit talking, being talked over and sidelining. This is extremely demoralizing for employees to feel like their voice isn’t being heard or valued. And women who experience this repeatedly, tend to feel hopeless in these situations.


For companies, this affects worker satisfaction, productivity and turnover rates. If everyone could learn how to empower themselves in situations where they feel they are being railroaded, we would see company cultures transform in many positive ways.


How did you get into this line of work?


I experienced many of the problems that confident, bold and take-charge women feel in the workplace. While working in the startup world in San Francisco, I had managers tell me to smile more and soften my language because it intimidated my male colleagues.


I spent years frustrated by this until I started my own consultancy in 2013. In being my own boss, I learned that these traits became my biggest assets in winning new business. Learning to be bold, speak with confidence and own a room were keys to building rapport with clients.


But I also had to learn to become a master negotiator. How to respond to clients whose business I wanted but who had challenging personalities or thought that consultants could be spoken down to.


Verbal self-defense isn’t about fighting fire with fire, which is what I had been accustomed to doing in the workplace. Rather, it’s about getting curious instead of emotional, and redirecting the energy coming at you, back where it came from. It’s a powerful, yet gentle, technique that can help anyone improve their communication style. Better yet, it can leave both sides feeling good about the interaction.


Tell us more about the workshop?


The workshop will go through specific techniques that women can use and implement immediately. Whether they are experiencing unwanted comments from men or trying to learn how to deal with a challenging boss or coworkers, it is equally effective.


The most important thing for women to do is practice! The workshop includes plenty of practice time to get used to speaking up in a safe environment, so you can build the muscle memory to respond in the real world.


What would you love for women to take away from this experience?


You do not have to be a victim of your circumstances. The #MeToo movement shared with the world what women have long known: sexual harassment and bullying are alive and well. We all have a lot of work to do to learn and improve conditions for women, but women do not need to wait for men to catch up.


We can begin today to empower ourselves in all of our interactions. And the best part is, it’s easier than you think.


Workshop details:


Verbal Self-Defense for Women

February 27th, 2019

SheHive 2505 Hilton, Ferndale, MI 48220

Tickets start at $65

According to Khalil, there are several excellent resources for women in the Metro Detroit area looking to develop their career skills. Some include Inforum, SheHive, and Women in Digital, among others. You can find out more about Khalil here.
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