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Debate 2020: 5 Lessons Kamala Harris Taught Us About Bossing Up

Step your game up with these tips on taking up space and owning the room.

Politics

The presidential debates have been a spectacle to watch to say the least, with the first one between President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden sparking ridicule, outrage, confusion, and contention. (With all of the spewing of snide remarks, off-topic rebuttals, outright lies, and deflections from the issues, you would have thought you were watching an old episode of Jerry Springer or a Real Housewives reunion special.)

For the second debate, which brought vice presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence head-to-head (with a plexiglass barrier between them, of course), the vibe of the night was the total opposite---one of composure and actual dialogue even remotely related to the questions posed.

Notably, Harris brought to the debate table what many Black women bring to corporate boardrooms, offices, classrooms, and Zoom meetings every day: a respectable poise and poignant intelligent eloquence to combat the constant gaslighting, informed ignorance, outright misstatements, and dangerous apathy that we all have faced at some point in our careers.

If you need a reminder on how you can continue to thrive and shine despite the challenges, Harris gave us five during the debate:

Own your look and slay.

Sen. Harris' understated but classy attire and hairstyle showed the room who she was before she even opened her mouth. The monochromatic navy suit, pearl earrings and necklace, and perfectly coiffed press-and-curl didn't distract from her points or their seriousness, and gave the warning that she didn't come to play. Whatever your look is---conservative, chic, sexy, casual or quirky---cultivate it, own it, and use it to your advantage as a tool for branding yourself as a standout leader or expert in your field.

Take up space unapologetically.

Being a pioneer is a feat within itself, and Harris is boldly taking on the challenges of being under an international microscope. During the debate, she did not cower or resort to insults. Whether you agree with what she said or not, there's little doubt that she indeed held her own, confidently stating her opinions and talking points. This is something we all must do when tasked with a job whether as a manager, supervisor or team member.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Use your words strategically and with tact. 

When presenting her points, Harris chose her words carefully, made sure her tone was respectful but authoritative, and did not back down. When you're trying to drive a point and get buy-in on an idea, present a new concept, or propose an improvement, it's a good idea to use tact and be conscious of your delivery when doing so.

Lean on facts.

Pence came at Harris with fears that Democrats would pack the Supreme Court so that there are more liberal-minded justices added. Harris countered with facts: "Do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? This is what they've been doing. You want to talk about packing a court, let's have that discussion." Pence said it was a "great insult" to law enforcement in reference to the notion that implicit bias against people of color is a prevalent problem. He even denied the existence of systemic racism.

Harris countered with facts about Trump's ban affecting Muslim-majority nations and his calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. (And we all know that research supports that systemic racism is more than real. Just check here, here and here.) In the same way, let the facts lead when communicating in professional settings, especially when you're negotiating a raise, asking for a promotion, or even defending yourself against a misunderstanding or workplace snafu. Performance insights, protocol, and results don't lie.

Keep your composure, especially when someone tries you.

When taken to task about her record in prosecuting cases involving people of color, she respectfully chin-checked Pence (though some might question the context and strength of her counterpoint), and throughout the debate, she sternly reminded Pence to respect her turn to speak a la Auntie Maxine Waters with the now-viral phrase, "I'm speaking." It's OK to be passionate about something or even disagree, but in a professional setting, it's best to keep your cool, show grace to others, and use your words, not your emotions, to make an impact.

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Featured image via Giphy

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