MAY 27, 2021

Practical Tips To Turn Setbacks Into Comebacks

International bestselling author Laura Huang chats with us about turning biases into strengths, overcoming Imposter Syndrome, dealing with negative feedback, and so much more.

Warrior to Watch: Laura Huang

Learn more about Laura in the Warrior-to-Watch feature

VEERAH’s ambassadors and team warriors had a raw and honest Google Hangout discussion last week with Laura Huang, Harvard Business School professor, Project EMplify co-founder, author of EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage, AND our latest Warrior to Watch feature. Laura shared with us that hard work alone is not enough because people often make decisions and judgments based on their perceptions and biases. Here are our key takeaways on how to turn stereotypes in our favor. 


Laura emphasized that hard work is critical, but equal effort does not equate to equal results. This is because decisions are made based on signals, conversations, interests, stereotypes, and cues. She shared the two most common ways that women are initially perceived in a business setting: how warm and competent we should be. Women entrepreneurs tend to get more “prevention-focused” questions vs men, who usually get “risk and competition” questions during a pitch presentation. This has led to women acquiring less funding and being assigned to stereotypical roles in the workplace. She saw a lot of these disparities, and the default assumption is that it’s how the speakers communicate; she found that it’s not about communication at all, but because of these existing biases.

However, becoming fully aware that these biases exist presents an opportunity for women to guide and redirect the conversation to their advantage. Laura shared that before their interview, she would give feedback such as: “one perception that they have about you, is that you are not as curious.” and they would address this by becoming more interested and curious about their panel during questions. And by addressing one stereotype, the women were able to improve and score better in multiple perceptions that they were originally scored lower from panelists. While not everyone has an expert coach like Laura to prep for an interview, the real takeaway here is learning to tune into, collect information, and understand the pre-existing biases that follow us throughout our lifetimes on our own, and using these biases to our advantage. How do you learn do this? Read on for more!

Seek feedback and strengthen your instinct muscle.

The best way to learn about people’s perception of you is to proactively seek points of improvement through feedback. The goal is to strengthen your “instinct muscle”. Laura assigned her students the Ten No’s exercise to achieve this. In this exercise, they had to acquire ten “no’s” from different people in ten different contexts, within one week and write about it. They discovered that since we are so conditioned to wanting people to say yes to us, most of the time we are interacting and using tones, styles, and communication patterns to make them like and affirm us. The exercise helped them practice different ways to communicate, develop their soft skills, and led them to discover various perspectives and tools to negotiate. Learn more about how her students developed and strengthened their instinct muscle via the Ten No’s exercise in this blog.

Deal with negative feedback mindfully.

So you proactively sought out feedback, great job! However, how do you handle the negative feedback that leaves you feeling embarrassed? She introduced `Life Rhymes', where your life experiences will begin to produce patterns and rhymes that will help you process the data and emotions of those events to become aware of your perceptions. Ask yourself, what were the perceptions about me? Why did it trigger these emotions? When we know the answer, it helps us understand what it is about failures that bother us. She added that it is important to ride the emotions while understanding them but to not get carried away or consumed by it. Unpack it intentionally. Understand and accept that there will be high and low days. It is deciding how these emotions will affect us that makes all the difference. In her latest newsletter, Laura shared how quantifying these emotions helped her address them better.

Make ourselves better, not bitter.

Another concept that she introduced is quitting sooner. She said that we don’t quit as often and fast as we should, and recommended it so we can allow room for more growth and discovery. She wrote about some of the things we should be quitting more in her blog: habits, projects, people, and something we have said yes to but really meant no. Being mindful of how these experiences affect us is vital in making ourselves better, not bitter.

Don’t over-prepare.

Being prepared is important, however, being over-prepared can be a constraint. Over-preparing does not allow you to dynamically improvise, and delight others in the present moment. You can provide more value and be authentically you by letting events unfold, rather than be dictated by a determined sequence. Practicing active listening vs over-preparing will benefit you more in turning the tables in your favor.

Stay curious.

Laura also addressed the Imposter Syndrome that every individual experiences and feels. She noted that it is strongly linked to Overachiever Syndrome, where from celebrating a win to doubting yourself, can happen in a matter of seconds. She then offered the advice to recognize that everyone has different skill sets, and you should not compare yourself to anyone else. We shouldn’t box ourselves into one skill, and she encouraged everyone to explore, fail fast to learn fast, and stay curious. A tool that can help us get answers directly without feeling the shame that comes with this syndrome is to ask: “Help me understand, why are we coming to this conclusion?”, as this invites the other person to collaborate.

Women Empowerment with Laura Huang

Women empowerment: all smiles after a delightful and insightful session with Laura!

The session was filled with insightful information rich in curiosity and delight - emotions that we hope would drive everyone forward to proactively seek ways to turn the adversities they face, to their advantage. To all the women, be fierce-full and fearless in conquering these stereotypes. Here’s to women empowerment!

To gain more insight, grab a copy of Edge: Turning Adversity Into Advantage here, and sign up for her monthly newsletter in this link. You can also follow Laura on Twitter & Instagram and Project EMplify on LinkedIn & Instagram

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