According to ancient Irish lore, the oak tree is a symbol of strength, grace, and wisdom. It has roots that run deep and limbs that reach high. If cut down, an oak tree can regenerate.

Head green

Like the enduring oak, a strong woman embodies strength, grace, and wisdom. She nourishes her spirit, heart, mind, and body so that her roots run deep. Even if struck down, a strong woman will rise again and stand tall.

This Week’s Blog Post:

Tips for Introverts from a Speech Instructor

Ranger 2014

If you are an introvert, you may have the heart of a strong woman, but no one else may know it if you are not able to express what you think and feel. Susan B. Anthony, a great leader and speaker for women’s rights, was an introvert. Yet she realized her message was more important than her own initial discomfort when she first started speaking.

Though I have always been a fairly quiet person, I too have ideas worth expressing. While I am fairly reflective and don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, I do want to communicate and connect with others. That’s why I initially made a commitment to study communication and public speaking.  I’ve taught public speaking and other college communication courses for about 20 years. Here are a few tips for women who want to speak but don’t know how to break out of their shells:

1. Learn to think in patterns. Thinking in patterns will help you pour your ideas into some kind of structure. Just like writing, formal speaking generally involves an introduction, body, and conclusion. However, speeches tend to be more structured than writing. As speakers, we often give an overview of each point we will address. Then we often give the audience a “heads up” when getting ready to discuss a main point. We might say something like, “First, let’s look at some patterns for speaking…”  After discussing a point, the speaker then may say something like, “Now that we’ve talked about some useful patterns, our next task will be to use…”  When we wrap up our talk, we then briefly recap each point and close with something memorable or with a challenge. Common patterns include: the topical format; past, present, future; chronological organization, or problem / solution.

Our brains are basically pattern detectors. If you use familiar patterns when speaking,  your audience will follow along more easily, and you will be able to remember what you want to say without getting too bogged down or wordy.  Thinking in patterns has helped me immensely when I need to “think on my feet.”

2. Understand the difference between oral and written communication. Oral communication uses more contractions and shorter sentences. Use language that is familiar to your audience.  Speaking is not reading or memorizing what you have written. Your presentations should sound natural and conversational. If you can learn to speak from an outline rather than a script, you will eventually develop a style that will sound natural.

3. Consider how you use your physical space: If you happen to be somewhat small or feel smaller than others, plant your feet at shoulder width. Women tend to use less space than men. I think those of us who tend to be a bit introverted could easily just curl up and disappear if left to our own natural responses.   I consciously make an effort to use more space to project presence. Because I am naturally a bit reserved, I learned years ago that I also had to change my posture. Rather than standing as rigid as a board, I’ve learned to lean into my audience ever so slightly. I also move around the audience a bit when appropriate to create a sense of connection.

4. Use eye contact as appropriate: In Western culture, eye contact is valued as a way to demonstrate trustworthiness and to make a connection. It may seem unnerving at first, but practice looking around the room, connecting with different individuals and portions of your audience for a brief moment at a time. By doing so, you are inviting others to connect with your message.

5. If it seems scary to put yourself “out there,” practice psyching yourself up. Visualize yourself being successful. Think about the importance of your message and how your audience will benefit from what you have to say. Use your body to give you a confidence boost. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy offers great insights on how our body language changes the way others perceive us and how it changes our own perceptions about ourselves. http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

As women, we cannot afford to sit back and let other more dominant individuals speak for us. We must be willing to speak our own truths in our own voices.

I need your help:

I just created a Facebook page to capture stories, pictures,  and videos of strong women, past and present.  I am inviting you to post pictures, videos, and stories about strong women (past or present) who have stood up for gender equality and have refused to be silenced. These are women who have influenced and inspired other women.

Help create a global scrapbook of strong, courageous women.  Please follow the link below to the Strong Women, Past and Present  Facebook Page.



We are the daughters, the sisters, the mothers, the grandmothers, the aunts, the mentors, the teachers, or the elder women in our communities. We have a world of opportunities to make a lasting impact on the lives of others within our spheres of influence. Yet many of us have had our voices silenced at some point in our lives. It is time for us to take back our power and show the world we are indeed strong women.

Strong women take care of themselves. They speak up when  they have concerns. They do not allow others to tell them what  they think or what they believe.

It takes discipline to become a strong woman. I invite you to join me as we explore and practice the disciplines of strong women together.

No Longer Silenced but Strong

I suspect most women know what it means to be silenced.  Some women are silenced simply because they are female; in some settings, ideas coming from women are often not given as much weight as those coming from men. Being female may mean our voices are discounted.

More often than not, women who have experienced some kind of abuse or violence have been threatened into silence or shamed into silence.

Women who have been silenced often lose confidence in their own voices. Sometimes they can no longer even find their own words.

As a communication educator, I have had a lot of women students over the years who  experienced so much silencing in their lives that they simply didn’t think they had any words of their own.

As a woman who grew up in a time when gendered roles were very strongly defined, I understand how silencing works. I know how threats can silence and how shame can silence. I know what it is like to almost completely lose my own words and thoughts – to be at a point where others would speak for me because I could no longer speak for myself.

Today I am a strong woman. I refuse to be silenced. I know that my voice needs to be heard if I am going to make a difference within my sphere of influence.

I believe your voice needs to be heard as well. Let us show the world that we are strong women!

Two Inspirational Women

Two women in particular have served as the inspiration for this site. One of those women was my own grandmother who lived a full and vibrant life. She made sure her voice was heard.  The other woman, Susan B. Anthony, is someone whose life I have studied for the past few years. In spite of the fact that many people tried to suppress her, Ms. Anthony made sure her voice was heard. She continued to speak for women’s rights right up until her last days. My grandmother was 97 when she passed this life. Ms. Anthony was 86.

Though both women I mentioned faced their share of challenges in life, they were strong women. As strong women, they were also prudent with their finances, planned for the future, made wise choices with regard to their health and well-being, surrounded themselves with others, had a relationship with a higher power, and found something they were passionate about that they pursued in a purposeful way. These women knew the importance of living a disciplined life.

Together, let’s explore disciplines that we need to practice so that the best of life is yet to be!

Please share your comments on this site. If you want to reach me personally about my book, about speaking to a group or about presenting a workshop to a group, you can contact me at: usreycpr@charter.net. Please note: Spam will be filtered out.


Paula Marie Usrey

One Response to About

  1. Sarah Johnston says:

    I enjoyed reading this and watching the video.

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