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Taking up space at work isn't easy. Here's how employees can speak up for one another

Originally published on October 4, 2021 9:00 am

Getting interrupted. Getting ideas stolen. Being talked over and ignored in meetings. This happens to women, people of color and marginalized workers a LOT.

As I (Stacey) was researching and writing my book, Machiavelli For Women, and exploring issues like the gender pay gap, the gender promotion gap and harassment, I would often talk these topics over with friends and colleagues. And the topic people always got the most excited and worked up about? Interruptions and idea-stealing.

This really surprised me. Getting interrupted or having ideas stolen is certainly no fun, but it seemed like such small potatoes to me. After a while, though, I began to understand. Getting interrupted is a small thing, but it's also a powerful symbol of status in a workplace.

On a more practical note, being heard is key to everything. If nobody hears your ideas, how are you going to get those ideas off the ground? How will people know you have awesome ideas and give you a promotion? In all of these areas, women struggle. LGBTQ workers and women of color also report not feeling heard. And, in fact, studies have found that Black women's statements are forgotten or misremembered significantly more often than those of white women.

Truly, this happens to all marginalized workers, no matter where they are working.

This, I thought, was at the heart of why everyone was so interested in this topic. And before I researched solutions, I wanted to see where this was all coming from.

For Tina Opie, a visiting scholar at Harvard Business School and the head of Opie Consulting Group, the answer is obvious: "What's really going on is power," she explains. "When you interrupt someone, you're trying to see who is at the top of the pyramid and who's at the bottom."

In certain cases, this is super obvious. The CEO is at the top of the pyramid, and the intern is at the bottom. The CEO might interrupt the intern, but the intern probably will not interrupt the CEO. Sometimes there are some more complicated issues at play, including gender, race and sexuality.

So what should you do when you get interrupted or talked over or have an idea stolen in a meeting? Here are four ways to be heard in the workplace. I've included upsides and downsides because one thing I learned in researching women and marginalized workers is that solutions are always messy and imperfect.

Call it out

Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

If Ralph interrupts you while you're proposing an idea, you speak right up: "Excuse me, Ralph, I was talking. I'd like to finish my thought."

This has major advantages. You're immediately shutting down the toxic behavior, and people are probably less likely to interrupt you in the future. Also, this solution comes with enormous emotional satisfaction.

Still, there are some downsides to this. Cecilia Ridgeway is a sociologist at Stanford University and the author of Status: Why is it Everywhere? Why does it matter? She says research shows that when women speak out like this or speak in a way that's perceived to be aggressive, it can have real consequences. People will often have a negative reaction and "see you as being domineering and self-promoting," she says. That can do real damage over the course of a career, Ridgeway says, potentially making people less likely to put you in charge of projects or promote you. It's not fair, of course, but it can have a real impact.

This isn't necessarily true for men. Ridgeway says men will often be admired for speaking up, being assertive or pushing back.

Call it out (softly)

Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

This is an option that a lot of people, especially women, will use naturally. It employs something called a softener. Softeners are language or tones used to equivocate or soften a statement. It can be a phrase like "I just think" or ending a sentence with a question. For instance, Ralph interrupts your idea. You wait for him to finish his sentence, and then you jump right back in. "Oh yeah, Ralph. I love what you're saying. I think that actually relates directly to what I was just saying..."

Ridgeway says softeners are a way for people to acknowledge their low status while still speaking up in a group or introducing an idea, both of which are high-status activities.

Softeners get a lot of flak, but there is a serious upside. Namely, they work. Studies have shown that when women use softeners, it actually increases their influence with men.

Of course, using softeners comes at a price. "People are more likely to listen to you, but it can undermine your message," Ridgeway says. People are less inclined to take your softened ideas seriously, even if they do listen to them. She recommends pairing softeners with confidence. Instead of saying "Sorry" or "Could I just say something?" Ridgeway recommends something like, "This might sound crazy, but what if we tried X?" or "I totally get why everyone is wanting to change directions, but I really do think we should stick with what we're doing."

Those are still softeners, but they have some swagger to them.

Play the long game

Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

The long game is when you don't react at all: You get interrupted. Your idea gets stolen. And you don't react in the meeting. Instead, you wait and observe.

Opie says this can be a good tactic, especially if you're in a new workplace or with a new group of people.

"When someone interrupts us, we tend to have a hot reaction," Opie says. "It doesn't feel good to be interrupted, so I have learned not to immediately respond. I tend to write down what I'm thinking."

Opie says she asks herself these questions: Is this person interrupting everyone? Only women? Only people of color? Only me? Is this a culture where everyone interrupts everyone? Where everyone interrupts women? Is it just this one person?

Then, she'll decide how to respond. Opie says she "might approach them directly and say, 'Hey, what was going on in that meeting? You interrupted me. What was up with that?'"

That way, you're not shaming the person in public, but you are addressing the behavior, and making sure the person is aware they are doing it. This is also a moment where you can build or deepen a relationship with someone or have a conversation that could create real change going forward. They could even become an advocate for you in the future.

The downside is that the long game is really difficult in the moment. It takes a lot of discipline, and you might pay a price emotionally. Also, it is allowing the behavior.

But Opie says it's important to remember, being heard in the workplace is not about one meeting or one idea.

"I give myself the advice: 'Tina, you don't have to fight for every idea in every meeting.' Because, unfortunately, what I think can happen is that you're constantly saying, 'That was my idea! That was my idea!' You begin to lose influence," she says.

AMPLIFICATION!

Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

Opie says this is, by far, her favorite solution to getting interrupted. And it has a bonus benefit as well. She learned the amplification strategy from an article in The Washington Post about women in the Obama administration. Their ideas weren't gaining momentum in the ultra-cutthroat White House, so they teamed up to create a solution: One woman would make a point in a meeting and, immediately, another woman would repeat the idea and commend it. And then a third woman would chime in and move the idea forward. And voilĂ : The original idea gets said, repeated, supported, and amplified. "It works," Opie says. "It's amazing how well it works."

Sharita Gruberg, vice president of the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, says amplification can work in other ways, too: You can call it out when other people are interrupted. "You know, like, 'I'd like to hear what Sharita started saying!' That's also really helpful. You, individually, can advocate for others and speak out when you see those practices happening."

There's another benefit to speaking up on behalf of others when they get interrupted. Remember, research shows us that women and other marginalized workers will often experience backlash if they speak up for themselves or their ideas. But they will not typically experience that backlash when they speak up for someone else. People won't have negative associations with a woman who defends other people and helps them be heard.

Certainly, meetings are changing a lot right now. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, the dreaded Slack Huddle. This technology is changing our routines and the power dynamics in workplaces, and it can make it harder for people to speak up. But it can also offer an opportunity to set new standards and change our communication for the better.


The podcast portion of this story was produced by Janet W. Lee, with engineering support from Marcia Caldwell and Kwesi Lee.

The comic was illustrated by Connie Hanzhang Jin and written in collaboration with Tina Opie.

We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org. For more Life Kit, subscribe to our newsletter.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Meetings - love them, hate them, when it comes to the workplace, they are undeniably important. Meetings are where new ideas are born, special projects are assigned and a lot of politics and power dynamics play out. If you are low in the pecking order, meetings can be a place where you are disrespected, interrupted, ignored or even have your ideas stolen. Research has found that this happens to women, people of color and LGBTQ and nonbinary workers a lot.

KENNY MALONE, BYLINE: Stacey...

VANEK SMITH: And...

MALONE: ...I'm so glad you're doing this episode. This is a thing that I have been thinking about a lot. It's just so important. Who gets interrupted and when, you know?

VANEK SMITH: Thanks, Kenny. Kenny Malone from Planet Money, I'm glad this topic is resonating with you. Yeah, you know, I actually thought this would make a really good LIFE KIT episode.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI, BYLINE: That is super-interesting, Kenny. I think that would make a great LIFE KIT.

MALONE: Right?

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: How to be heard in meetings. Right. Let's do it.

VANEK SMITH: Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, welcome. I'm glad you're interested in this.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Yeah. If you think about it, being heard is so key. I mean, if nobody hears your ideas, how are you going to get those ideas off the ground?

VANEK SMITH: Well, exactly. I...

MALONE: Yes, Alexi. And to piggyback off this, how do you get funding if your ideas aren't yours? Right?

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Oh, yes. I love this idea, Kenny.

VANEK SMITH: I...

MALONE: Thank you, Alexi.

VANEK SMITH: Actually...

MALONE: I am...

VANEK SMITH: So this...

MALONE: ...Super-excited about this...

VANEK SMITH: OK. So, yes, I'm really glad you guys are excited about this. When I had this idea months ago because I was working on a book - I have a book that's just come out. It's called "Machiavelli For Women," and it deals with a lot of these issues in the workplace, like women and work and pay and how to handle things like getting interrupted. And that's where I got the idea for the show. And actually, I came up with five solutions, like, things that you can do when you're getting interrupted. And...

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: That's awesome, Stacey. But, Kenny, I am loving this idea. Why don't you kick us off?

MALONE: It's so good, Alexi. This is NPR's LIFE KIT.

VANEK SMITH: What?

MALONE: I'm Kenny Malone.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: And I'm Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi.

VANEK SMITH: No, no, no. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith. This is NPR's LIFE KIT, a show that I wrote. And I have five tips...

MALONE: On this episode of NPR's LIFE KIT, how to be heard. Interruptions, idea stealing, getting talked over - it's all here, baby.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: We'll take a look at why this happens and what to do about it. We'll also offer solutions - six takeaways for how to be heard.

VANEK SMITH: It's five takeaways.

MALONE: Six takeaways - NPR's LIFE KIT coming up.

VANEK SMITH: But I don't have six.

MALONE: Well, just make one up. That's what you do when you don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

MALONE: You just make it up, and you say it really loudly and confidently.

VANEK SMITH: Being heard at work - so before we get to how to make this happen, I just want to say, for the record, that Kenny Malone and Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi are two of the kindest, most wonderful colleagues. They do not interrupt me. But, for sure, I have been interrupted. And this kind of interruption, idea stealing, it happens in workplaces all the time to everyone - even people who you would think it would not happen to, like Supreme Court justices. In fact, this made news a few years ago as part of a study of Supreme Court transcripts. The study, which was published in the Virginia Law Review, found that female justices were interrupted three times more often than male justices, even though they spoke less often. The study cites many examples, but here's a particularly striking one. This happened to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the person interrupting her is a lawyer arguing a case. And, by the way, lawyers are technically not allowed to interrupt judges.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUTH BADER GINSBURG: But when...

KENNETH STEVEN GELLER: Court, simply, concluded...

BADER GINSBURG: ...You take what the president undertook, which was just to use best efforts, that doesn't sound like...

GELLER: Under the supremacy...

BADER GINSBURG: ...They had much to - well, didn't...

GELLER: Well, Justice Ginsburg, I think it's the operation of the Supremacy Clause. Here, the president has said...

VANEK SMITH: That's right. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was interrupted multiple times by a lawyer who was arguing a case to her. So what is going on here? Before we get to solutions, I think it's important to look at why this happens. Why do people interrupt other people in meetings?

TINA OPIE: Well, what's really going on is power.

VANEK SMITH: This is Tina Opie. She has a Ph.D. in management, teaches at Harvard Business School and is the head of Opie Consulting Group.

OPIE: So when you interrupt someone, you're trying to see who is at the top of the pyramid and who's at the bottom.

VANEK SMITH: In certain cases, this is super-obvious and even official. Like, the CEO is at the top of the pyramid, and the intern is at the bottom. And, you know, the CEO might interrupt the intern, but the intern probably is not going to interrupt the CEO. But then there are some more complicated issues at play - issues of gender, race and sexuality.

CECILIA RIDGEWAY: Our background cultural beliefs about what types of people in society are more valuable voices in most things.

VANEK SMITH: Cecilia Ridgeway is a sociologist at Stanford University and is the author of "Status: Why Is It Everywhere? Why Does It Matter?" She says our ideas about who has more status are often rooted in sexism, racism and other biases. And often, we aren't even aware of them.

RIDGEWAY: It has to do with old ideas about status associated with gender and who sort of rightfully controls the structure of interaction. So when more important people tend to interrupt less important people more often - and we find that it's men versus women, and unfortunately, we have race ones too, white people versus people of color, middle-aged people versus the young and the old and so on.

VANEK SMITH: Cecilia points out that talking in meetings, introducing an idea, steering the conversation - these are high-status activities. And if someone who is perceived to be low status starts doing that, interrupting them is a way to smack them down, put them in their place. It is a classic microaggression. Cecilia says women get interrupted far more often than men. Also, Black women's statements and ideas are misremembered and forgotten significantly more often than the statements and ideas of white women.

And it isn't just gender and race that come into play. Sharita Gruberg is vice president of the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. She says LGBTQ and nonbinary workers report that this happens to them a lot.

SHARITA GRUBERG: Transgender workers reporting highest levels of supervisors not listening to them, followed by bisexual workers and then lesbian, gay and then straight cisgender workers.

VANEK SMITH: Sharita says interruption, stealing ideas, talking over people and dismissing what they say - it's a message, a message that marginalized workers get all the time in all kinds of different ways.

GRUBERG: All of these behaviors that are rooted in both disrespect and control - it is a form of disrespect, but it's also establishing a hierarchy or showing you don't belong here.

VANEK SMITH: But you are here. So how should you deal with this behavior when it happens? What do you do when you get interrupted, and how can you make sure you are heard? Here are five solutions and takeaways for how to be heard at work. Takeaway No. 1 - call it out. This is probably the most obvious and sort of immediate solution to...

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Call it out. This is one really straightforward option you can try...

VANEK SMITH: Yeah. Hey, Alexi, I was...

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: ...When you get interrupted.

VANEK SMITH: ...Talking. I would like to finish my thought. What I was saying is that option No. 1 is to call it out in the moment. And, you know, this has its advantages. You're immediately shutting down the toxic behavior. Alexi is probably less likely to interrupt me in the future. Also, emotional satisfaction - right? - it just feels really good to just jump in and shut down Alexi in that moment. But there are some downsides. Cecilia Ridgeway says people can make some pretty harsh assumptions about you if you do.

RIDGEWAY: Well, you've just got a hair trigger, honey.

VANEK SMITH: Cecilia says research shows that when women speak out like this or speak in a way that's perceived to be aggressive, it can have real consequences. People will often have a negative reaction.

RIDGEWAY: They'll really write you off like you're coming on strong. And then they'll dislike you and reject you. They'll see you as being domineering and self-promoting.

VANEK SMITH: Cecilia says that can do real damage over the course of a career. People might be less likely to put you in charge of projects or promote you. They might hesitate to put you into a management position because they think you're abrasive and difficult. It's not fair, of course, but this can have a real impact. And, Cecilia says, this is not necessarily true for men. Men will often be admired for speaking up or being assertive or pushing back. But for marginalized workers, it is more complicated. Pushback can be perceived differently. Tina Opie says she has thought about this a lot, mostly because she herself has experienced this backlash when she has tried to call out interruptions and idea stealing.

OPIE: For example, the word strident has been used to describe me, and I think it comes because I correct people when they interrupt me or take credit for my ideas. And what I'm asking myself is, is this leading to the kind of influence that I want to have in this particular team? If it is, go for it. If it's not, then I'm just suggesting that there's a little bit more nuance to this conversation than simply saying, whenever someone interrupts you, correct them in public, in front of the group, right in the moment.

VANEK SMITH: A little bit more nuanced - and this takes us to takeaway No. 2. Call it out, but softly. So, this is similar to calling it out...

MALONE: Stacey, this is such a good point.

VANEK SMITH: ...Except with calling it out softly, you're using kind of gentler language.

MALONE: This is an option, is my understanding, that a lot of women will use naturally, yeah?

VANEK SMITH: Yes. Yes, that's true. In fact, it uses something called a softener. And so softeners are language or tones that are used to equivocate or soften a statement - can be a phrase like, I just think - or sometimes ending a sentence with a question?

MALONE: Stacey...

VANEK SMITH: And other...

MALONE: ...And when we were reading about this yesterday - the softeners - it just felt like the softeners were a good thing to emphasize.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah. Actually, Kenny, I know you and I talked about that this morning. And I'm so glad...

MALONE: Yeah.

VANEK SMITH: ...That stuck with you and that you brought this up in this meeting. We can talk about it (laughter) now.

MALONE: (Laughter) That's right.

VANEK SMITH: So as you can see in this rather gentle but awkward exchange, softeners are a way of calling out but gently. And there are some serious upsides. For one thing, softeners work. Studies have shown that when women use softeners, it can increase their influence with men.

RIDGEWAY: And that can be a brilliant strategy.

VANEK SMITH: Still, Cecilia Ridgeway says softeners can be tricky. And there's a real downside. If you use the wrong ones, they can backfire. So people might hear what you say and allow you to finish your thought, but they might take that thought less seriously. So people might, like - I don't know - they might hear your idea - I - sorry - I'm not saying this very well. They might take it less seriously. So Cecilia Ridgeway, she says that, like - I don't know - maybe avoid some of them.

RIDGEWAY: Don't put yourself down. And don't say, well, this idea is kind of stupid, but I'm going to put it out there anyway. Don't say that.

VANEK SMITH: Instead, Cecilia suggests using a softener that has a little swagger - for instance, something like, you know, here's a thought - not sure what you guys are going to think about this, but what if we tried X approach? Or, you know, just to follow up on what Kenny was saying and to finish my thought, what if we tried Y approach? And, you know, if that sounds a little awkward, it is. And that is a real downside. Softly calling things out can be passive-aggressive. It is not always smooth.

Calling out, though, hard or soft - these are not the only options. And that brings us to takeaway No. 3 - the long game. This is kind of like deep poker table skills. The long game is when you don't react at all. You get interrupted, your idea gets stolen - you don't react in the meeting. You wait. You observe. Tina Opie says this can be a good tactic, especially if it's a new workplace or a new group of people or if you're just really junior.

OPIE: When someone interrupts me, we tend to have a hot reaction. It doesn't feel good to be interrupted. It's a slight. So I have learned not to immediately respond. I tend to write down what I'm thinking.

VANEK SMITH: Then, says Tina, she will observe the person and the situation in question. Is this person interrupting everyone, only women, only people of color, only her? Is this a culture where everyone interrupts everyone else? Or is it just this one person doing all the interrupting? And then she will decide how to respond.

OPIE: If I know the person really well, I'm more likely to approach them directly and to say, hey, what was going on in that meeting? Remember I was talking about cellphones, and you interrupted me. What was up with that?

VANEK SMITH: This way, you are not shaming the person in public, but you are addressing the behavior. You're making sure that they are aware of what they're doing and giving them a chance to change. This is also a moment where you can build or deepen a relationship with someone and have a conversation that could create real change. This person could even become an advocate for you in the future. The downside is that the long game is really difficult in the moment. It takes a lot of discipline, and you might pay a price emotionally. Also, it is allowing the behavior. You are not standing up for yourself, and you are letting someone talk over you. In that moment, you're not fighting back. But Tina says it is important to remember that being heard in the workplace, it is not about one meeting or one idea.

OPIE: That's why I gave myself the advice - Tina, you don't have to fight for every idea in every meeting because, unfortunately, what I think can happen is that you're constantly saying, that was my idea. You begin to lose influence. And the whole reason you want your ideas heard in the first place is because we want credit for those ideas so that we can influence the conversation.

VANEK SMITH: Tina says she has gotten very good at the long game over the course of her career. But it is not her preferred solution. Tina's favorite way to deal with interruptions and idea stealing is our takeaway No. 4 - amplification. So Tina first read about this in a Washington Post article written about the women in the Obama administration. They were having trouble being heard in White House meetings, and so they developed this tactic.

OPIE: Before the meeting, they would talk with each other. And they might say something like, OK, Stacey, when I get into this meeting, I'm going to talk about cellphones. So when I get into the meeting and talk about cellphones, I need you to say, Tina, I love your idea about cellphones. And then, Janet, I need you to come right behind Stacey and say Tina's idea about cellphones is amazing.

VANEK SMITH: By the way, Janet is producer Janet Woojeong Lee. Hi, Janet.

JANET WOOJEONG LEE, BYLINE: Hey, Stacey.

VANEK SMITH: So, Janet, in order for an application to work, you need an ally in the meeting.

MALONE: Oh, Stacey, this is such a good one. And I remember reading something about how the women in the Obama administration did this. They were amplifying. I was...

VANEK SMITH: Yes. Yeah, they did.

MALONE: ...Thinking, we should try that here right now. We should...

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Oh, yeah. I think I read that article too. That was super-interesting.

MALONE: Yes - very good article.

LEE: Hey, guys. Hey, guys. I actually agree with Stacey's idea that Tina's amplification tactic is super-effective. I've used it a bunch of times in meetings, and it really works.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah. That's so true, Janet. The upside of this is that it works really well. You can get momentum for your ideas. It's a great way to be heard. The downside is you need an ally or two to make this work, which brings us to our final pro tip, takeaway No. 5 - be the ally. If you see a colleague trying to say something and getting cut off, it's a great moment to jump in. And...

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: You should think about calling people out if they interrupt somebody else.

LEE: So, Alexi, I actually think Stacey was trying to make a point there. Stacey, what were you saying?

VANEK SMITH: Oh, thank you, Janet. I was just about to say that Sharita Gruberg at the Center for American Progress says calling out interruptions and idea-stealing when it's happening to someone else is a really powerful tool in the workplace.

GRUBERG: But it's other folks who are peers saying, Sharita was speaking, or, I'd like to hear what Sharita started saying first. And that's also really helpful. So, you know, you individually can advocate for others and speak out when you see those practices happening.

VANEK SMITH: And there's another kind of cool part about this. So remember; there's research that shows that women and other marginalized workers will often experience backlash if they speak up for themselves or their idea, but they will often not experience that backlash when they speak up on behalf of someone else. So if Janet jumps in to defend her own idea when she gets interrupted, people might see her as aggressive or hotheaded. But if she jumps in to defend my idea or me getting interrupted, people will probably admire her. They will see her as fighting on behalf of other people.

So there you go - five ways to be heard at work. And, of course, all of this is changing a lot right now. Sharita Gruberg says all of the new platforms and technologies are changing how we meet and the culture of meetings. And she says in some ways, a lot of the issues that we've been talking about can be even more extreme on these new platforms.

GRUBERG: There's definitely times and circumstances when things can be a little bit more challenging. It's very easy to talk over people via video. I imagine it's going to be even more of an issue for folks who were being spoken over before.

VANEK SMITH: But Sharita says this is also an opportunity. Right now our work routines are being shaken up. Everything is changing, and that can create an opening to set new standards and change our communication and cultures for the better.

Thanks again to Tina Opie, Cecilia Ridgeway and Sharita Gruberg. And thanks also to the Oyez Project for their recording of the Supreme Court. For more LIFE KIT, check out our other episodes. We've got one on thriving in a hybrid workplace, quitting your job and lots more on everything from health to finance to parenting. You can find those at npr.org/lifekit. And if you love LIFE KIT and want more, subscribe to our newsletter. That's npr.org/lifekitnewsletter. And now, as always, a completely random tip, this time from our listener Mara (ph).

MARA: Hi, NPR. This is Mara. I have a LIFE KIT tip to soften a hard veggie. Simply add a few punctures around the vegetable, and then just pop it in the microwave for a minute or so. And what this will do is it will soften up that hard exterior to slice it up.

VANEK SMITH: If you've got a good tip, leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us a voice memo at lifekit@npr.org. This episode was produced by Janet Woojeong Lee. Megan Cain is the managing producer. Beth Donovan is the senior editor. Our production staff also includes Audrey Wynn, Andee Tagle and Clare Marie Schneider, and our digital editors are Beck Harlan and Wynne Davis. And a very special thanks to Kenny Malone and Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi - best colleagues a girl could ask for. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith. Thanks for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.