Attuned Leadership for Women Podcast

Episode 026

Speak Like a Leader: Influential Communication Strategies with Alexia Vernon


Have you ever found yourself tongue-tied, grappling with the decision to speak up or stay silent? Or perhaps you’ve boldly voiced your thoughts, only to feel like they fell on deaf ears? In this episode, I sit down with the phenomenal Alexia Vernon, a renowned authority in executive communication and leadership. Together, we delve into the realities of speaking as a woman leader, managing speaking-related discomfort, discerning when to assert our voices, and crafting messages that inspire action.

Whether you’re navigating the complexities of the corporate ladder, advocating for change, or simply seeking to amplify your presence, this conversation is your gateway to vocal empowerment. Tune in and learn the secrets to speaking up and standing out, with grace and impact.

Two white women on the cover of a podcast episode image discussing the topic of cringe-free self-promotion for women leaders.
About Alexia Vernon

Dubbed a “Moxie Maven” by the White House Office of Public Engagement for her unique and effective approach to communication and leadership development, Alexia Vernon is the founder and president of Step into Your Moxie. A certified woman-owned and disability-owned business, Step into Your Moxie helps organizations develop their people, their communication strategy and training, and Alexia runs numerous programs for women entrepreneurs and consultants who want to grow their visibility and level-up their vocal empowerment through speaking, media opportunities, and corporate consulting.

Since winning the Miss Junior America competition, Alexia has delivered transformational keynotes and programs for Fortune 500 companies, healthcare and educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, professional associations, and the United Nations. Alexia has contributed to media such as CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS,,,, European Business Review, and Women’s Health Magazine. She is also a proud sexual abuse and thyroid cancer survivor, and shares her life with her husband and business partner, Steve, and their daughter, Kaia.

Quotes from the Episode: 

“I believe that there are few conversations we cannot have if it pairs candor with kindness, if we’re not in the room with somebody who is unsafe.”

Alexia Vernon

The longer we tolerate a situation and we stuff it down or we ruminate about it, the more likely it is that something is going to trigger us. And so in that moment, then. we lash out and usually we don’t use communication that is likely to fix the situation. Oftentimes then we come across as the aggressive, agitated, wild one…”

Alexia Vernon

It’s inspiring to think that even though we can have a lot of discomfort in a situation, that there’s always a way to work through that and to use our voice as a tool to advance our career or have our voices heard or, move toward whatever the goal is there.

Dr. Crystal Frazee


[00:01:03] Managing speaking related discomfort.

[00:07:36] Career advancement for women.

[00:19:37] “Speaking up” challenges for women.

[00:21:23] Physiological sensations when speaking up.

[00:30:06] Healing through communication and understanding.

[00:36:39] Speaking up and no change.

[00:39:47] Influencing change through effective communication.

[00:43:47] Shifting communication culture.

[00:47:22] Women’s leadership and complicity.

[00:51:50] Challenging traditional leadership norms.


Mentioned In This Episode:

      • Connect with Alexia Online:
        Alexia’s Website
        Alexia’s Book: Step Into Your Moxie
        Alexia’s LinkedIn
        Alexia’s Instagram

        Connect with Crystal Online:
        Crystal’s Website
        Crystal’s LinkedIn
        Crystal’s Instagram
        Crystal’s TikTok

        FREE Leadership Resources from Crystal:

        Get updates about Crystal’s upcoming book! REVIVE: The Working Woman’s Unexpected Guide to Recovering from Burnout

        Want to search for specific topics from the show or learn more? Scroll to the bottom of the page for the chat box to type your question and get an AI generated answer from this show’s content.

        Prefer to Read? Here’s the transcript!

        *Just a heads up – the provided transcript is likely to not be 100% accurate.


        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Have you ever felt so strongly about something and wanted to speak up, but just didn’t know what to say or if you should speak up at all? Or had the opposite situation where you did speak up and share your thoughts, but then you felt like you were speaking a different language because it just didn’t have the effect you wanted. It didn’t draw people in. I am so thrilled today to share a conversation with Alexia Vernon.

        She’s an expert in executive communications and leadership. She’s an author and founder of Step Into Your Moxie. It’s a business that helps executives, business leaders, and entrepreneurs develop their communication strategy, grow their visibility, and build vocal empowerment. And I’ve personally known Lex for almost a year now, and I assure you that she’s a fierce advocate for us to use our voices and express ourselves authentically, especially in moments when we might feel silenced or uncomfortable speaking out. In this conversation, you’re going to learn some of her techniques to manage speaking related discomfort and how to get clear when you should speak out and when you should hold back and how to effectively use words to motivate action in others. 


        Dr. Crystal Frazee:

        Where do established and aspiring women leaders go to get answers to their biggest challenges, like how to deal with double standards, break free from hustle and burnout, drive change without being bossy, and how to raise visibility by doing less, not more? I’m Dr. Crystal Frazee, your host and a women’s health and leadership expert and author. I’ve spent the past 15 years developing the answers to those questions. I believe that your body has all the wisdom you need and that without much effort, you can leverage it for things like faster, better decision-making, creating a magnetic presence for influence, and even navigating perimenopause so your performance goes up instead of down. In this show, I will teach you what traditional leadership approaches overlook, how to leverage your body wisdom to break free from time and energy traps, shatter barriers, dissolve the good woman programming that stops you from living on your terms, Level the playing field at home and work and be the most powerful leader you can be. Get ready to rewrite the rules of success and satisfaction using the practical strategies of attuned leadership for women.

        Main Content: 

        Dr. Crystal Frazee:

        Lex, thanks so much for being here. It’s an honor to have you on the show and to share some of the wisdom that I’ve learned from you with this attuned leadership for women audience.
        Alexia Vernon: Thank you for having me. This is probably my favorite conversation to have. So this is a treat for me. Wonderful.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Let’s take a second before we get into the heart of our conversation and just have you introduce yourselves to the listeners and in that also say why today’s topic is you think it’s important to them.

        Alexia Vernon: So as you mentioned at the start, I run a company called Step Into Your Moxie, which is a coaching and training company that works with executives, senior leaders, and entrepreneurs, ensuring that they possess the mindset and the skillset to be able to walk into any room, into any conversation, and onto any stage and speak up for themselves, for the ideas and issues that matter to them and to their companies, and consistently and also ethically call people to take action. I love this work. I’m in a season of life where I’ve now run my own consulting company considerably longer than in my first chapter when I had a traditional J-O-B. And sometimes I have to pinch myself because I am somebody who spent so much of the first part of their life in a very uncomfortable relationship with my voice. And so not only every day am I reminded that no matter what our experience with our voice has been, we can always create a new chapter. But no matter what happens in life, which in my life seems to frequently come back to my voice, also reminded that there are so many tools we can use in terms of mindset and skill set and behavior. in those moments where we feel out of sync to recalibrate, that no matter what happens, there’s always a pathway forward. And I know we’re going to dig into that today, because for people who are listening, you might be saying, yeah, that sounds great, Alexia, or Lex, as my friends call me. But you don’t know what my situation is. And you’re right. As you’re listening, of course, you have to take anything that we talk about and connect it back to not only your experience, but ultimately to your own inner wisdom. And I would just extend an invitation as we’re starting to think about what does it look like to operate in life and in leadership with an assumption that there is always a way to use our voices irrespective of how toxic a situation is. We just have to be nuanced enough to know what’s the way we want to do that.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Hmm. That’s so powerful. Wow. It’s so inspiring to think that even though we can have a lot of discomfort in a situation, that there’s always a way to work through that and to use our voice as a tool to advance our career or have our voices heard or, you know, whatever the, the goal is there. Maybe we should start by highlighting some of the challenges that women tend to face, you know, when they’re speaking up.

        Alexia Vernon: Yes. In different seasons in our career, the challenges evolve, meaning for somebody who’s an entry-level professional, women are often seen as young in a way that their male counterparts aren’t. Now, to be fair, you could put a 23-year-old female next to a 23-year-old male, but the contribution of the 23-year-old female oftentimes is diminished based on age in a way that it isn’t for her male counterpart. I wish I could tell you having majored in women’s studies, pursued it for my graduate work and even taught women’s studies for a number of years before hanging out my shingle exactly why that happens. But I think for the sake of today, it’s less important how patriarchy and how socialization and how generational history has gotten us there and instead just sort of say, not that there’s nothing we can do about it, but like, that’s the context that many women are entering into who move into traditional workplaces after college or even after high school. But then what starts to happen for a lot of women is they get into entry-level or middle-level management. And oftentimes they’re taken more seriously than perhaps they have before. However, there’s an awareness now that I’m playing the game. I’ve had some success. I don’t want to rock the boat. and get in my own way of upward mobility. And so I’m sure you’ve seen this with clients that you’ve worked with as well. One might have a little bit more power, but what one chooses as a female to do with that power is complicated because there might be that sense of, I want to be an ally to those who are coming behind me. However, I don’t want to muck up my career trajectory. The other thing that starts to happen is oftentimes as we’re moving into middle management for those who are choosing to start families, this is a time when biologically many people are either having families or they’re adopting children or given where the generations are, taking on caretaking roles with parents and elders. And so there’s often a tremendous tug between work life and home life happening at the same time. So often I’ll hear folks at this stage talk about imposter syndrome. I feel imposter syndrome. How did I get here? When really in many cases, it’s not so much the imposter, it’s there’s so much noise being generated by too many conflicting obligations that’s getting archived as there’s something wrong with me, I don’t trust myself. Then as we move into more senior leadership, whether that’s, and I’m conflating director, VP, senior VP, there’s a lot of variance there. But oftentimes what’s now starting to happen is an awareness that, okay, wait, some of the stuff I experienced early career is happening again. I’m being talked over in meetings. I might have power, I might have a title, but especially up until a couple of years ago, the wage disparity in senior level leadership roles was more pronounced at any point before. And so I think in our conversation, we’re going to talk about what do we do with all of that. But I guess the thing I want to drive home is if you are aware or you have a sense that things are not the way that I want them to be, Every day I see opportunities to speak up, but sometimes I’m not taking advantage of those. To give yourself some grace and to recognize you’re not alone.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Yeah, definitely not alone. To some extent in Western culture, it is a universal experience if you are identified as a girl. And I’m from the South. I like to say I’m a recovering Southern belle. I have that little extra piece of being raised with the role modeling of being seen, but not heard and definitely not rocking the boat, not creating conflict. and having to just recognize that that is an experience that I have and that many women have some variation of that, that you referenced too. And that that creates a lot of sensation that’s saying, no, no, no. And like you asked, if we are going throughout our days and recognizing moments, these opportunities where there’s another part of our body that’s calling for our voice, that saying, you know, whispering, speak up, that you’re going to learn some things throughout the rest of our conversation and how to reconcile this conflict that’s happening. So if we take, let’s come up with an example so that listeners can kind of latch on to something. I had someone reach out and ask me to give advice on a situation that she had experienced where she was in a leadership meeting with just the executive members of the team and something had happened and they were making change to the business plan and there was a disagreement among different members. And every time she spoke up, it’s as if she wasn’t in the room. She wasn’t acknowledged for speaking. And then when it came to decision making, it’s as if she hadn’t thrown her opinion into the hat. And so just starting with that part of the story, let’s call the woman in this story Tanya. How does Tanya begin to discern that right moment to speak up?

        Alexia Vernon: It’s often tricky to know how to speak up in the moment because it requires some self-reflection. But with that said, I want to honor the question that was asked, which is to begin with, what is actually happening and to be objective. And what I mean by that is, sometimes the reason people are talking over us, and I have experienced this with clients I’ve worked with, is because the voice truly is quiet. That the only way people get space in a conversation is if they yell. For others, what they recognize when they’re objective is, I’m saying things and somebody else is now taking them and claiming them as their own as if I didn’t even say it. That’s a different dynamic. Another popular dynamic is I’m saying things, I’m being a voice of dissent, but folks who have the most power in the room are pretending they’re not hearing it, so they don’t have to deal with it. But once we’re able to address, OK, what’s going on, the way that we might approach it shifts. So for example, if it’s a culture where the loudest voice wins, what we might want to say is something along the lines of using a physical gesture and saying, stop. Stop for a moment. I want to make sure that I’m being heard, and I recognize that the loudest voice wins, but that’s not who I am. And doing that, adjusting the energy in the room, where it’s not about, stop talking over me, which can oftentimes make people defensive, but doing something to take up space in a way that feels authentic to what our voices want to do can work. And then acknowledge it. In the scenario where other people are taking our ideas, depending on our relationship with those folks, there’s one of two things I recommend. The first, if it feels safe, because if there’s not safety in a space, we want to not try to do something that’s likely to cause more harm. but step away and try to find allies and advocates to help us devise what to do. But assuming there is safety in that space, I found myself doing this sometimes in a board meeting on boards that I’ve sat on. Can we pause for a minute? I appreciate that everybody now is starting to see this pathway unfold. It makes me uncomfortable as a woman and as a women’s leadership advocate that when I said that idea originally, nobody acknowledged it. And I’m not sure if anyone was even aware. But then when a different person, and I would name who that was, presented that idea, everybody got really excited. Can we talk about that dynamic? If there’s not the safety to do that, One of my favorite strategies for women to support other women is amplification. And so oftentimes other women in a space, particularly in male-dominated industries, will notice, okay, there’s two women, there’s 17 men on the team or in the meeting, being able to amplify one another. So amplification would look like, Crystal, you set an idea, let’s go to the water cooler. I want to piggyback to what Crystal just said, naming her and then reminding folks of what she said. Let’s go to the water cooler. That serves as a powerful reminder to the room of, OK, there’s multiple people saying this, but attribution was given. And so those conversations rarely happen in a high-stakes moment. But when I do work with women’s leadership programs, oftentimes women will start to strategize, OK, who are my advocates? And they’ll have these kinds of conversations. We’re going to that meeting, whatever comes up. If we agree with what the other is saying, can we practice amplification? And that can be really helpful. And then ultimately, if people are speaking over someone because they don’t want to have to deal with what that idea is because they disagree. If there’s the safety, the way we might want to proceed is by saying, I’ve noticed that we’re dancing over the possibility of blank. While I recognize we might have a difference of opinion, can we talk about it? Yeah. In every situation, I strive to ask questions as much as I can rather than make assumptions. And rather than responding with the energy of, I was attacked or I was harmed, in these situations that feel more like microaggressions versus, there’s no doubt that I can interpret this as harm cause, like it’s more in that liminal space where we don’t know, assuming positive intent, but also raising a flag and saying, hey, something’s not quite right, I’d like to talk about it, can be a way in.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Those are such great strategies for when you’re feeling unheard to very effectively just bring the conversation back to yourself, using your body to make a gesture, pairing it with the tone and the words that you’re saying to let other people know, no, I really want you to hear my voice. And in the way listeners can’t see her, but in the way that Lex demonstrated that was very welcoming. It wasn’t aggressive or overly assertive in any way. Kind of the takeaway with all of the suggestions that you made is to stay present in our bodies, to respond to what’s happening, and to believe in ourselves that we can communicate in a way that’s grounded, that is professional, and that can capture attention of others. But what I think I’ve seen happen with some of my clients is maybe when they don’t do that, they get to a place where they get triggered. Their nervous system takes off. Maybe it’s really familiar to something from early life or previous job experience or all kinds of things, but eventually they get overly frustrated or overwhelmed. Absolutely.

        Alexia Vernon: The longer we tolerate a situation and we stuff it down or we ruminate about it, the more likely it is that something is going to trigger us. And so in that moment, then. we lash out and usually we don’t use communication that is likely to fix the situation. Oftentimes then we come across as the aggressive, agitated, wild one, which is all the more reason why when something happens and we’re not sure, but we can feel that stirring inside, whether it’s the heart rate accelerating, a tightening in the gut, some tension in the shoulders, To be able to use sentences like, I’ve noticed, I’m experiencing, hold up, I want to poke around and figure something out. When we can genuinely still have a smile on our face is not only going to prevent us from seething inside over a period of time, it’s actually the time we’re more and more likely to make impact because people haven’t ingrained the way they’re treating us. It’s not just about changing ourselves. It’s about making sure habits don’t emerge with the way other people are in relationship with us. They get fixed, that then get hard to shift.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Oh my goodness, that is so powerful.

        Alexia Vernon: Whenever we ask leaders that we work with or team members when we do work, what are the reasons for you that you’re not speaking up? The reasons are nuanced, but it might surprise people what I’ve heard the most over the years. So some of the reasons people will give is, I don’t know what to say. Nothing will change. But what happens the most is that people say, I have some sense of what I should say, but I feel so uncomfortable saying it that I don’t. And this is particularly pronounced for women, for other underrepresented populations, and I find this one tragic because it has such an easy fix. Meaning, and I know this is the part of the work you adore as well, talking about our bodies. and the role that we can shape with our bodies to be able to hold space to do hard things and say hard things. So in the vocal empowerment pyramid that we use at Step Into Your Moxie, there’s five core vocal empowerment skills that are necessary for consistency in speaking up. At the bottom is inner voice. Probably your listeners know enough about what I’m referring to that we don’t have to dig too deeply into. The way we talk to ourselves obviously plays a role in whether we choose to speak up, how we choose to speak up, or whether we don’t. The next is physiological sensation, which we’ll come back to. And these don’t necessarily have a hierarchy. They’re all important to cultivate. But most people are pretty clear they need to think about their presence, their messaging, and ultimately possess the tools to ask for what they want if they want to move people to take action. That’s the top of the pyramid, shifting thinking behavior for others. But the part that typically most people haven’t spent a lot of time playing with is the physiological sensation piece. So when we learn how to first be more present in our bodies and simply notice what we’re feeling on a moment to moment basis, not just in the triggered moments, but like throughout the day, it becomes a lot easier to notice when we want to speak up. Because for most of us, what starts to happen is the breath shifts. It becomes much shorter. And in those moments, as a result, depending on how we’re wired, we might feel flushed or hot. We might feel out of breath. From that blood flow constriction, we might start to feel pain in particular areas. But then we start to notice like, okay, this is my body’s way of saying something’s not right. Yeah. Do something. Yeah. The next piece, and this is why we use role play in all of the communication development work we do, is that if we are sculpting a challenging message in the moment that we’ve never practiced out loud before, it’s real typical that it’s going to feel like there’s a colony of butterflies that are flapping their wings in our chest or in our gut or dancing between bowls. And so for a lot of us, Situations that feel uncomfortable aren’t an aberration. It’s a particular dynamic with a team or a boss or a subordinate that’s constantly or starting to more frequently bring us to that place. And so if we can rehearse and role play out loud what we want to do in that kind of situation, not only does that allow us to find our words so we’re not sculpting in the moment, but if we practice saying them out loud, it gives our bodies an opportunity to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. So that in that moment when we actually speak up, our bodies aren’t trying to play catch up. They’ve already developed that muscle memory and the sensation, while it may not feel cozy as we’re saying what we’re saying, it doesn’t feel as wildly uncomfortable as it otherwise would have.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Right, like those alarms are going off saying, no. Yeah. And in Tanya’s story, she eventually got triggered, raised her voice to get attention, which sort of, I think, in most environments then validates whatever story, you know, other members may have about women’s communication styles. Then when the attention did come to her, she felt sort of out of body, surreal and ungrounded in the moment.

        Alexia Vernon: Yeah.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: because of her nervous system being so taken over.

        Alexia Vernon: And I would imagine then we create evidence for ourselves. Oh, well, I shouldn’t speak up because I make situations worse. I’m not as word perfect as I would have liked to be. I’m aggressive and brash rather than. Mm hmm. if playing with some of the strategies and techniques that we’re talking about, if something doesn’t go right, but we feel like we showed up and we communicated in a way where we were in our integrity and it reflected our values, it’s actually much easier to recover from that disappointment because we know our side of the street was clean. And that’s one of the things I want people to really think about. If we are consistently stepping into our moxie, we’re speaking up, we’re striving to call people to take action, we won’t always get what we want, what we ask for, what we’re entitled to. However, if we’re doing it in a way that feels like it’s a representation of the leadership we want to live into in those moments where it doesn’t go right, it’s a lot easier to dry brush off that disappointment and do it again. But what often happens is when we finally do speak up, it’s actually not a reflection of our values and our authentic voice. The archetype I refer to is a dragon. Oftentimes we are a dragon where we’re fiery and we’re hot and it’s about us rather than about the situation. Or we go bunny where we say something, but we didn’t make eye contact. We hedged with, I think, I feel, I believe. What do you think? Or our voice tipped up at the end and we turned it into a question. And then as a result, we’re not only diminishing ourselves, but we’re creating another chapter in the archive of communication in our company that women are operating from a deficit.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Yeah. There’s a distinction here. I love the metaphor of the bunny and the dragon. And what you said a few minutes ago is that by practicing out loud, the things that we want to say that we’re feeling pulled to say, you know, to other leadership members, other people in our work environment, it helps us deal with that discomfort. But I also know you don’t like people to be overly prepared and overly scripted. So maybe you can differentiate between those two.

        Alexia Vernon: Yeah, it requires a lot of nuance. You’re right, because I just said this in a conversation we had before we hit record. One of my mentors in early career used to say that structure sets are creativity free. Another way to say that is structure sets are voice-free, meaning we want to know ideally what’s our ideal outcome from the end of this conversation or the end of this presentation or the end of this negotiation, and then work backwards and ask ourselves before we go in there, based on that, what are the three to five most important things for me to communicate? And then practice saying those things out loud. Is there a story I want to share? Is there a question I want to ask? Is there something, if I’m trying to move to that ideal outcome, I definitely don’t want to say? And then practice that out loud, but then rather than memorizing it, be open to the serendipity that is going to happen inevitably when we go into a room, when we go into a conversation, for those who speak on stages, when we get in front of a live audience. Because if we’ve practiced aloud enough, that can heighten our self-trust that while we can’t control the outcome, we know what our piece is here, and I’m gonna trust that whatever happens, I can handle it. And some of the hardest conversations I’ve had throughout my life have not been professional. They’ve been personal in various realms of life. And there have been numerous times where the response has had to be, we can’t go any further. We’re at an impasse, and I’m going to walk away. When it feels like we’re having to circle around the same thing and say it over and over again, and we’re not having influence, which no matter how artful we are in our communication, sometimes that will happen. When we begin with the ideal outcome in mind, we also look at, okay, if it’s not going there, what am I willing to do? And what’s a non-starter and I’m out. And, you know, depending on the conversation that the answer to that’s going to be different. Sometimes it’s, this is a workplace culture where I can’t change anything. And so I need to look for another place to be. But sometimes it’s going to be, you know, we get to this place. Ultimately, we disagree. And while I may not get exactly what I want, nah, at least I felt like I was heard. I was validated. I didn’t have the influence, but I was treated with dignity. So I’m going to let it go. But that practice piece out loud is what allows us to use structure in a way that it can amplify our vocal empowerment, but not cling so tightly to what we’re going to say that we’re just in our heads trying to remember what we’ve memorized rather than being really present. Because ultimately, moving people to take action, it’s not about being word perfect. It’s okay if some ums come out, some vocalized thinking comes out. It’s about connecting to the conversation that’s going on in other people’s heads and hearts and being able to speak as clearly to that internal conversation as possible, to that person or that team’s pain points and personal motivators, rather than focusing just on us. And that stuff we can’t do if we don’t practice. Like that stuff is rarely going to come out in a moment on the fly, especially if we’re triggered.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Yeah. And that’s really such strategic communication to be able to hold what’s happening within ourselves, observe movement and sensation in our bodies, think about what’s my goal. So we’re really bringing all the five pieces of your triangle into this one moment when we need to speak up. knowing the end outcome and other ways that things may go, but driving the conversation, keeping in mind what you said that really stood out as the other person’s motivator and what may really open them up to want to hear more of what we have to say. I know for me, sometimes I get so passionate about things that I have things I just want to say. It’s a really skillful opportunity to actually flip that and say, what do they want to hear from me?

        Alexia Vernon: This conversation is making me think about one that I had several weeks ago, and it was a relationship where there had been no communication in long over a decade. And I had replayed if and when we were in the same place again, how I would communicate. I mean, easily a thousand times over that decade. And that’s not an exaggeration. And I got really clear based on my prior knowledge of the person, having had some conversations with other people close to that person over the years, that if we were ever going to attempt to resume a relationship again, which I was open to, what that person needed was to ensure that they had done something that caused harm. And while I needed to re-engage acknowledgment of that harm caused, what that person’s primary motivator was, was not experiencing any shame or public embarrassment. Because they were in a role by that point in their life where the stakes were very high to publicly acknowledging the harm that was caused. And so in that delicate first conversation, I did get what I needed, which was that acknowledgement and an apology. And there was just an immediate, we don’t have to talk about it again. And my promise to you is that this can stay between us. And it was like this relationship that had gone dormant for such a long time. So much healing happened. And I have no idea where that particular relationship will go exactly in the future. I’m holding a vision that it goes to some pretty awesome places. I think there’s so much to take away from that in situations where we are really hurting, whether it’s at work, whether it’s at home, whether it’s in our community or anywhere else and coming back to what does that person really need. Sometimes we can’t offer that, but oftentimes what they need can be in alignment with what we need to. But the reason we’re not getting that from that relationship is because that person’s needs aren’t being met, or there’s fear that if they concede, if an apology is given and responsibility is taken, that will negatively impact them so much that that’s why we’ve gotten to this impasse. particularly in situations where some harm has been caused.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: There’s so much vulnerability and trusting of your own body to be able to navigate a conversation like that. For sure. We could call it a high stakes conversation.

        Alexia Vernon: And for anyone who’s listening, because I remember doing this work. I mean, I’ve been doing it for 17 years, I think, independently now as of 2024. The first time I heard that, I’d been doing communication development work, but I was like, what does that mean? And so for anyone who’s listening, high stakes is subjective. So for you, high stakes might mean getting up on a stage and giving a keynote. For me, truthfully, that’s like low stakes at this point, because I’ve done it a lot. And I trust that an audience is going to be far gentler with me than somebody I’m passionately feuding with in my personal life in a given moment. But for others, high stakes might be a negotiation for salary. High stakes might be receiving feedback from somebody or giving feedback to somebody for a newer team lead. So high stakes is just it feels high stakes to us because there’s the high likelihood that emotions will be rising, ours and potentially someone else’s, There’s high capacity for misunderstanding or something going wrong. And also, there’s a likelihood that we can’t control and we want to. So when all of those things are present, that’s what makes a communication context feel high stakes.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: So when are the moments when it actually behooves us to be listening to our body, feeling some sensation, and make the choice to remain silent.

        Alexia Vernon: That’s almost going to say all the time for the first part, when should we be listening to our bodies? All the time. When should we be noticing what we’re feeling? All the time. And I joke, but for somebody who’s felt disembodied for a long time, Even saying, okay, three times a day, when I wake up midday, when I hopefully take a lunch break and at night, I’m going to simply check in is powerful. It almost becomes impossible to start to make a habit of checking in to then not also be able to listen and understand what’s happening. Now, whether we take action on that is different because Over time, if we start to notice and we hear, it’s not always clear, so what do we do about that? And for me, the number one question I ask and I share with others is, is there safety for me to say what I want to say? And we won’t always know the answer to that, but that’s really the guiding question. Am I likely to experience more unsafety or harm by speaking up? And if so, then we don’t want to go there, even if we’re entitled to. We need to bring in reinforcements. So at work, sometimes it might just be, well, that person will lash out, but I’m not going to lose my job. It’s just going to be awkward. And so then we might want to have somebody else on the team next to us to be a witness. We might want to tell a team lead if this is somebody else who’s on the team, or if it feels like there’s no safety on the team, we might need to go to HR and report it. But we never want to go into a situation where our gut instinct is that this will be unsafe for me and speak up. That doesn’t mean, though, that we want to hide and never say anything or triangulate. We go to people and we gossip about it because that’s not using our voices to speak up either. When I ask that question in a lot of groups of people, irrespective of gender, they’ll usually say, there probably is safety eight to nine times out of 10. It’s really that I either feel really uncomfortable, and so then that’s the practice piece we talked about. But the other one that will come up in more traditional hierarchical workplace cultures is, I’ll speak up, but nothing will change. That’s one that, especially in the fall, if you’re listening and you’re one of my organizational clients, it’s not just one company. It was a handful. people said that. And so I want to address that one right now because that one is really frustrating. I spoke up. I practiced. I did what I was supposed to do. I might have gotten a head nod or two or some acknowledgement, but then nothing changed. And there’s a couple ways we can play with that. One, try to get a timeline for when we can revisit that conversation. So let’s say we brought up something about wanting to be able to work from home once a week. We brought it to the attention of somebody, and we were told, OK, thanks for sharing. Oftentimes, the reason nothing changes is because in that conversation, there was no built-in accountability. And accountability doesn’t mean in a week, do I have your word that things will change? That’d be nice, though. Rather, it wouldn’t be nice. Asking the question, I’ve often noticed that in our company, things are slow to move. And I get that. When would it be appropriate for me to come back to you for us to have a follow-up conversation if you haven’t come to me beforehand to report back? And that’s really great because now we’ve co-created a timeline, not for a result, but to revisit something. The more we can enroll the person or the people that we’re trying to advocate change with in that process of the next steps, the more likely it is we don’t feel like we’re an annoyance. So let’s say they say, you know, give me three weeks. I’m going to talk to some folks. Great, can we get an appointment on the calendar? And I’ll laugh a lot when I’m a little bit tough, because I know I’m being tough, but it’s so much easier to do it on the front end than to wait three weeks and be like, nothing’s happened. Can we get a call on the calendar? And now it’s awkward. Then in three weeks, we’ve got that meeting. If nothing’s happened, I don’t want to assume that, even if I suspect that’s the case. Checking back in what, if anything, has happened since we had our initial conversation and let that other person tell me their story, not assume what it is. And then if it’s nothing, I’ll usually say something that’s candid, but paired with kindness. I believe that there are few conversations we cannot have if it pairs candor with kindness, if we’re not in the room with somebody who is unsafe. And so in those situations where I’ve done that, and that person said, yeah, I didn’t get to it, or there was pushback, that’s when I’ll fuse candor and kindness and say something like, what’s it going to take for us to see some movement around this? Is it possible? Because I want to know if I’m wasting my time and I really want to work from home, I’m going to start looking for another job. Or if it’s just things are slow to move, what do we need to do? Do I need to bring more people in? Like, what do I need to influence this? It comes back to asking a lot of questions. Because the more we enroll the people we’re trying to influence in those answers, the more likely it is that that’s built in the accountability, rather than us having to feel like we’re constantly beating our fist against a wall.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: That’s a great way to decide. I’m sitting in this meeting. I’m feeling uncomfortable. I want to say something. I’m holding back. Should I keep holding back? Should I say something? Asking ourselves if we feel safe and you kind of went, you’re moving in the direction of, of another question that I would love to ask you so you can share your ideas. It is. how you compel others because in speaking with you over this past year, you do such a great job of communicating your ideas and doing it in such a way where I feel invited in, where I’m growing and learning through listening. And it’s just not a common way that people communicate. You’re a communications, you know, an executive communications expert. You’re a strategist in this way. So, you know, you have this really unique bag of tools that really makes communication draw people in. It’s very compelling. It almost brings people to the answer themselves. And it’s part of it, I think, is the way that you ask questions. So I would love for you to go into that a little bit more. That’s a great question.

        Alexia Vernon: How did I get to be Alexia? I’m kidding, somewhat. When I first went through coach certification back in 2007, I passed my tiers, I got ICF certified, but I was a really bad coach. I knew how to coach on a coaching call, but I didn’t know how to bring coaching to leadership. if that makes sense. I could do it with a person who wanted to be with me and wanted to be coached, but I didn’t know how to do that during all the other moments of a day where coaching as a framework for how to think and how to behave and how to speak could come in really handy. It’s one of the reasons why I think coaching, not only for people who want to be professional coaches, but people who are managers and leaders has become so stinking popular. because it allows for better communication across every single context, and that has been a huge place. Like, it took me a while to figure out how to apply those skills outside of coaching conversations, but that has been, I would say, one of my superpowers. When we created our Step Into Your Moxie certification a few years back, one of the reasons why is that I’d hear that a lot from our entrepreneurial clients, consultants, entrepreneurs, coaches. Like they had a real mastery of how to do that one-on-one in relationships, but as more we’re facilitating experiences in the workplace, or with even some of my executive clients who I was working with one-on-one, that desire to be able to not only possess more vocal empowerment for themselves, but actually be able to use these tools to develop their teams, like that disconnect. And so I do think that having some training around all of those pieces of vocal empowerment, inner voice, managing physiological sensation, presence, messaging, moving people to take action for us, But then just as importantly, how to facilitate that for others isn’t just about us like being able to walk into a role as a trainer or a manager and do it better. It’s also about shifting culture. Because one of the more heartbreaking things is when you work with somebody one-on-one and they’re doing such beautiful work. They’re not changing necessarily the culture around them, but when other people around them are having access to the same vocabulary and the same way of working and thinking and communicating, that’s when things often get profoundly better and faster.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Yeah. Can you share other examples of how the coaching questions and asking those open-ended questions really helps bring people across the table?

        Alexia Vernon: Every situation requires a slightly different question, making sure that our questions don’t feel like an interrogation. And that’s a big one. When we do too many what and when questions, it can feel like, whoop, I’m on the spot. Or why. Or why, exactly, why. When we use questions that begin with how, or even sometimes I’m curious, or I’ve noticed and I want to check in, is this just me or have others noticed? Sometimes doing a little bit of context at the beginning of the question lets the question do the work. But if we’re asking a question, where there’s a specific right answer and we’re fishing for it. Those are the moments we don’t want to ask the question. I’m going to bring it to parenting for a moment. Even with a how, you know, if my daughter’s room is something straight out of animal house and I ask her, how do you think your room is looking right now? Bad question. Failure as a parent. No, I’m kidding somewhat, but that’s not where I want to ask a question. Like that’s not the question I want to ask because there’s a specific outcome. What I really want is her to clean up the stinking room and figure out a timeline. So then I want to lead with, and I’m going to try to do this without a lot of judgment, your room is not as organized as I would like it to be. What’s a timeline that feels appropriate to get it back to organization that you’re willing to work with me here on? And then it’s like, OK, now I’m asking the question about the thing that’s the real conversation piece. Like, it’s not up for discussion if you’re going to clean your room. As long as you are home with me, that’s it to do. And when I approach it that way, my kiddo will usually say, over the weekend. And then it’ll be a follow-up conversation. Because the thing she wants more than anything is Roblox and Google Chat time with one of her besties. I’m not going to tell you when it has to happen. However, let’s be clear that until that happens, the other thing that you’re really wanting is not going to happen. So again, back to her personal motivator, Roblox time and Google chat with the bestie. In a workplace situation, some of my favorite questions, and again, the context has to warrant it is, when do you feel comfortable for us to revisit this so that we’re putting a timeline in place? What have you noticed in this meeting, because I’ve noticed a bunch of stuff. But before I get into story, I want to know what you’ve experienced. Because if I go immediately into my stuff, I’ve now really painted the picture of what’s there. And that’s going to determine where the conversation goes. And that if my painting is not what other people are seeing, even if I’m entitled to that interpretation, it may not be helpful. And another question that I’ll often ask is, How can we create a way forward that allows us not to see things the same way, but to be able to continue to talk about them? I like asking questions like that when there’s some conflict, we’re not going to resolve it, but we can’t really say it in impasse because we have to work together, whether it’s a client and we are the service provider, or more often this is going to happen when we’re working on the same team.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Yeah, those are great to kind of chew on and think over. I know the listeners are hopefully taking notes on all these great ideas and ways to deepen their communication skills for the work that they care so much about. There’s one last thing that I’m wondering if we can touch base on, and it’s something else that that I observed in a recent women’s leadership event that I was at with a panel of speakers. And it’s how potentially we may be complicit in our communication and, you know, the reasons you think that may happen.

        Alexia Vernon: It’s very easy to assume that because we’ve had a particular experience, that that is going to be similar to other people’s experiences. I didn’t become a women’s leadership person because I’d experienced a lot of challenge in my workplace professional life. I was underpaid, but truthfully, in the nonprofit world, so was every other stinking person, and it really didn’t have to do with gender or race. It was, that’s just what the institutional ceiling was. However, I became so passionate about this topic not because of only my own experience, but because of while being a women’s studies student and teaching, hearing so many other people’s stories and studying history and recognizing that even though patriarchy impacted me in a lot of ways in my personal life, In my professional life, less so, but I still had a responsibility as somebody with power and privilege and the ability to see the dysfunction, to speak up about it, and to try to make it better. Just because we haven’t experienced something, even if we’re an underrepresented population, so even if I haven’t experienced a lot of harm because of my gender, doesn’t mean that patriarchy doesn’t exist. And I am a white woman. And even though I might not have experienced racism, that doesn’t mean that white supremacy doesn’t exist and that I don’t benefit from it. The closer we are to the harm that’s being caused because we’ve experienced it, whether because of our gender, our sexual orientation, our race, being able-bodied, whatever that category of identity is, the more harm we’ve experienced because of it, the clearer our vision of it is. And that’s one of the reasons why one of our core values at Step Into Your Moxie is about centering marginalized voices. Because if we don’t, we’re never gonna really understand that experience.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Absolutely. I wish we were at the event yesterday.

        Alexia Vernon: I would have, from our conversation that we did not record because it wouldn’t be appropriate, I would have been seething inside.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: Yeah. Yeah, it wasn’t a moment where I felt comfortable standing up in a room of hundreds of other women leaders and saying something, but it was a learning moment, an observation moment about exactly what you’re saying is the speaker is speaking to something that she’s never experienced in drawing a conclusion about that, which doesn’t represent everybody in the room. And it was really uncomfortable.

        Alexia Vernon: I’m sorry that that was an experience because that’s another moment of sometimes we’re in a big forum and it’s not appropriate for an audience member to speak up and say something that’s not the context. And yet we’re aware, oh my goodness, there is There are so many people who’ve just heard this messaging that I vehemently disagree with. But I always believe even if we can’t say something in that context, we can bring that insight and that passion somewhere else. So now we’re bringing it up in a podcast and people who are listening are able to benefit. I remember experiencing a panel and I’m going way back, it’s probably 13 or 14 years ago, where I was in the room, every person on the panel was a white male over the age of 65 talking about leadership. Now, I’m happy to say, I don’t think that that lies in pretty much any segment of society anymore, but it did at this particular time. And everybody had a pretty similar response to the questions being asked. about leadership. And one person even fell asleep on stage, which is probably not pertinent to the story. But I remember thinking, this audience is 50, if not 60% female, rising leader. And this is what we’re being told. This is what we’re being given as supposed soul food to impact our best leadership. This is profoundly wrong. And so I went home and I devised my first self-produced women’s leadership year-long program after that. Like that was the impetus to a program that I ran for five or six years in my local community where I went to organizations and I had them sponsor high potential women at the director VP level to participate. And I always look back and I think, thank goodness that really wretched panel happened. And I was so stirred up because that was a huge level up for me in terms of my business and the work that I did. And when I think about some of those women who went through that program, there are women now who are presidents of banks, who are heads of national nonprofits, like they’ve done some incredible things. And I wouldn’t have worked with them if I hadn’t been in that room. So I always believe that while we don’t want to be in experiences that are toxic for any number of reasons, never to let a toxic experience be the end. They can always be the start of something new.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: And I think it might be. This has been such a great conversation. So insightful. And I’m so happy to share some of the step into your Moxie world with all of my attuned leadership listeners. And before we sign off quickly, I want to invite all the listeners to a virtual executive round table event that’s coming up March 26th. and it’s 12 to 1.30 Eastern Standard Time. It’s for women leaders who want to level up their own communication and learn how to navigate a specific challenge they’re facing, and most importantly, how to elevate their employee communication so their teams work more effectively and efficiently. I invite you, if you’re in senior leadership in the C-suite, a VP level or upper HR, to consider joining and to reserve your seat. Just email me. It’s super easy. info(at) If you’d like to connect, I will link all of Alexia’s information, a link to her book, and ways that you can learn more about her and her work on the show notes page. So definitely go and check all of those things out at

        I am so grateful that you joined me today for the conversation, Lex. Thank you.

        Alexia Vernon: My pleasure. Thank you for holding space for this conversation.

        Dr. Crystal Frazee: I can’t wait to hear what people think about it and what they take away. And if you haven’t yet, take a moment to rate and review the show. It’s how I reach more women who need to hear this message. I hope you have a great week. Be well and stay attuned. Bye.