Are women undermining themselves with "Sorry"?

16 February

Are women undermining themselves by using words like "sorry" in their communications? The truth ... is complicated. Here's what the soundbites miss

Here is an excerpt from a LinkedIn Post by Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big.

You’ve probably seen the headlines. In recent weeks, there’s been a burst of media attention – from The View to Elle to the BBC (and the list goes on) about women’s words, in particular the “sorrys,” “justs” and other undermining phrases that often show up in what women write and say.

In the coverage, journalists, TV hosts, and others have raised some important questions:

Are women truly undermining themselves with these kinds of communication habits, or are they being strategic – softening what they have to say because that’s the only way they’ll be heard?

If women take out all those hedges and tentative words, won’t they be perceived as arrogant, aggressive or rude?

Is this advice just more criticism and blaming of women?

Men say these things too - why aren’t we asking men to stop using these words and phrases?

Is this really what we should be talking about, when it comes to women’s empowerment or gender equity?

I’d like to explore these questions, and share some of what I’ve learned working with hundreds of women around communication over the past several years. After all the recent media sound bites, I want to give special attention to what’s complex and multi-layered about this topic, and add some context that’s been missing from the coverage.

  • Question #1: Are women truly undermining themselves with these kinds of communication habits, or are they being strategic – softening what they have to say because that’s the only way they’ll be heard? 
  • Question #2: If women take out all those hedges and tentative words, won’t they be perceived as arrogant, aggressive or rude? 
  • Question #3: Is telling women to change these speech habits just one more form of criticizing women?
  • Question #4: Why aren’t we telling men to make the same changes?
  • Question #5: Is this really what we should be talking about when it comes to women issues?

Read Tara's answers to these questions in her full LinkedIn Post.

Tara Mohr is the author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, named a Best Book of the Year by Apple’s iBooks.

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