Rhian Morgan talks to two leadership experts, Bec Howard and Dannie-Lu Carr, about why it is time for tough love for women in business
I still remember one of my first female bosses repeatedly becoming angry with me because I would preface nearly every sentence with the word sorry. It was something I had never even noticed before, akin to a nervous tic and, since then, although I do still slip up, I seem better able to control myself.
Bec and Dannie-Lu told me my problem is surprisingly common. Women say sorry far more than men it is a trait that is predominantly regarded as a female thing. Somehow, women seem to feel there are far more occasions throughout the day when, in our view, we feel a sorry is required or it just slips off the tongue way too easily.
As leaders, they said, apologising really doesn't serve you well as a woman. With a little more assertiveness and tough love, in both our work and personal lives, we could make a better impact in what we do and feel altogether more empowered and positive about ourselves.
I think there are times and places for apologies, and I don't shirk from the word if I genuinely feel in the wrong. It has certainly improved my relationships, having the self-respect to know when to say it.
But, according to Bec and Dannie-Lu, sorry is a word that shrinks us. They say it dilutes our impact towards whomever we are directing it, which for some of us means we end up apologising for almost anything and everything it can be our ideas, or before we ask a question, or if someone ever bumps into us, or even when we stand up for something we passionately believe to be right.
An endless stream of apologies can affect every aspect of our lives. By saying sorry, you perpetuate your insecurities and diminish your capabilities, rather than allowing your genuine talents to be seen. Holding your strength and conviction is vital in business and, in a field where women are as capable as anybody else, we need to hold equal footing in every relationship, conversation, or power struggle in order to truly connect, respond the best way we can, and get what we need. Women leaders everywhere need to bring on more tough love instead of willowy apologies.
Bec and Dannie-Lu aim to empower women so that so they can change the language and landscape of female leadership, and smash through the glass ceiling of limitation.
According to The Five Gateways, they have suggestions to help you rethink how the word sorry can work for you:
Swap the S word for a week and notice the difference
Instead, use a pause, take a deep breath, hold your nerve. We tend to fill the air and our emails with meaningless power-sucking sorries on a daily basis by omitting them, this silence will leave you feeling articulate and liberated.
Don't be afraid to own your opinion and intellect, ask direct questions
Forget phrases like: I'm sorry to ask this question or Sorry, I don't mean to ask stupid questions but Simply say: I have a question. The result will make people listen to the clarity, resolve and purpose behind what you say, it will feel completely different and your impact will soar.
Make sure you value the people who help you
It can be easy to feel guilty when someone at work goes above and beyond to help you but saying sorry can then burden them with the responsibility of absolving your guilt. Instead, respect their effort and thank them for their help, as genuine gratitude works as an empowering acknowledgement of the other and feels a whole lot more useful for both parties.
Be sure to say it the way you want it
It is easy to overuse apologies when attempting to keep relationships balanced and not be too dominant at work, but this actually feeds our own insecurities and keeps us from really saying what we want. The key to releasing the hold sorry has over you is understanding why you say it, and then doing a usefulness edit on what you discover. Take responsibility for saying what you want, the way you want it, in your full authentic strength.
Remember, you are the one who matters the most
Take time to consider what you want to get out of a situation, how you want to feel, and how you want the other person to perceive you, but don't shy away from putting yourself at the top of your priority pile. You need to give yourself a healthy dose of tough love as well as everyone else. Make your own decisions, stick to them, and follow them through in both word and action, and you will see the shift in peoples response and actions as our cause creates an altogether different effect.