How women undermine themselves with words. Some simple needed wisdom from Tara Mohr.

by | Jun 9, 2015 | From the CEO | 0 comments

Something I have noticed in myself and especially my female employees around the office is a constant apologizing. So when I read the article “How Women Undermine Themselves with Words” by Tara Mohr, it struck a chord with me. Mohr explains:

“It’s an unconscious habit many women have: To apologize before asking a question, to apologize because they are standing at the milk and sugar station at the café while someone else is waiting for their turn, to apologize in all kinds of situations where an apology is not warranted! We apologize simply for taking up space.”

Pantene did a great TV spot covering this very topic. In fact, when this spot came out, I shared it with my female employees, colleagues, and friends and we banned the words “I’m sorry” at the agency unless they were needed to truly apologize.

Mohr goes on to share some common speech habits women have, particularly in the workplace, that have a huge impact in causing women to come across as less competent and less confident. As I read through her list, I saw all of these things in myself.

  1. Inserting just: “I just want to check in and see…” “I just think…” Just tends to make us sound a little apologetic and defensive about what we’re saying. Think about the difference between the sound of “I just want to check in and see…” and “I want to check in and see…” or the difference between “I just think” and “I think…”
  2. Inserting actually: “I actually disagree…” “I actually have a question.” It actually makes us sound surprised that we disagree or have a question—not good!
  3. Using qualifiers: “I’m no expert in this, but…” or “I know you all have been researching this for a long time, but…” undermines your position before you’ve even stated your opinion.
  4. Asking, “Does that make sense?” or “Am I making sense?”: I used to do this all the time. We do it with good intentions: We want to check in with the other people in the conversation and make sure we’ve been clear. The problem is, “does that make sense” comes across either as condescending (like your audience can’t understand) or it implies you feel you’ve been incoherent.A better way to close is something like “I look forward to hearing your thoughts.” You can leave it up to the other party to let you know if they are confused about something, rather than implying that you “didn’t make sense.”

“Most women are unconsciously using these speech habits to soften our communications, to try to ensure we don’t get labeled–as women so often do–as bitchy, aggressive, or abrasive.”

If you are like me, even if you bear the title of “boss”, you genuinely want to be authentically kind and compassionate to employees, clients, and vendors. And with an agency name like Fierce, we have to be especially sensitive to our core value of kindness. We have to communicate that we are fiercely loyal, fiercely strong, fiercely protective of the brands and clients we serve–not fiercely aggressive or abrasive. So how can women communicate warmth in the workplace without undermining their intelligence or apologizing for their authority? Here a few great examples.

  • Warm greetings in your communications.
  • Simple positive statements that warm up the tone of communications like, “So looking forward to meeting with you next week and hearing your feedback.”
  • Light use of humor.
  • A bit of non-work conversation at opening or closing of work communications.

Read the entire article here: