Why are Women Apologizing


In an article posted on Time.com, author Jessica Bennett questions her own use, or rather over misuse of the word “Sorry” after watching this Pantene commercial.

I started a discussion on Facebook, but this deserves more conversation.

In my experience, when I say what I mean in a direct manner, I have been told on many occasions (by family and in the workplace) that I “come off” as being aggressive or too assertive. I always thought, especially in the workplace, that showing assertiveness is a good thing.  It proves you’re a no nonsense person, an efficient worker, and promotions are in your future. Apparently that rule only applies to men. Although I don’t want to get into a male vs. female in the workplace debate.

In no way do I ever mean to display aggression. I’m just trying to be clear and more efficient in communicating my thoughts.The more direct I am, the less my words are left to interpretation and therefore solutions and resolutions can be reached faster.

But it’s apparent people just don’t like that. This manner of speaking leads to stepping on toes, pissing people off, and hurting feelings along the way. In short, instead of being heard clearly I am viewed as being a bitch; behind my back of course.

So to have a more positive outcome in discussing my thoughts and ideas, I have consciously taken the “softer” path. I know I insert “sorries” where they do not belong. I know I start sentences with “I hate to be a pain, Sorry to ask,” etc. This behavior makes me feel like I am showcasing weakness and a submissive personality. That’s not who I am. However using this technique, or crutch as the article points out, makes conversations easier and then I’ve suddenly become more approachable.

Sue of the Anomaly Podcast says she can hear herself adding lines like “if that makes sense” or “but that’s just my opinion.” in conversation. “And every time I hear myself do it, I cringe. And I’m sure I developed it after being told that I seemed to “pushy” or “arrogant” or whatever. And I absolutely hate that I still catch myself doing it.”

Cassandra says “I have tried both ways…if I take the softer way I get walked on… So not gonna do it! I am not going to be a foot wipe for anyone!

Christina points out “… studies that show that women are considered more likeable and more likely to be responded to in positive ways when polite and ‘softer’, and you have to wonder exactly what drives these responses in oneself. How much is it a response to socialization and positive reinforcement?”

I would love to hear from you and your thoughts on this topic so we can discuss further.



8 thoughts on “Why are Women Apologizing

  1. It is a difficult web to untangle. Do we apologize too much? When we stop, are we punished for going against the norm? The answers are yes and yes I think. However, I also think we should encourage the opposite sex to be more polite. I don’t think they apologize enough, and both sexes need to meet in the middle somehow (and accept the deviation from our cultural norm when it happens). What we shouldn’t do is punish women who we think apologize too much. I was told by someone once that they had a teacher who would tell girls that if they apologized before they spoke then he wouldn’t listen to them. I don’t think that kind of tactic is helpful or useful. It is helpful to acknowledge the problem, and maybe address it privately with the person, but more importantly, we need to change our perception of weakness. Manners are not weakness. Neither is lack of manners strength.

    • I agree Lindsey that manners are not a sign of weakness! But I find myself prefacing statements with apologies because I KNOW that the statement contains strong feelings or opposing positions opinions. And although I feel that my point of view is more well received that way, in the back of my head I have a hard time justifying why I should HAVE to sound like I’m sorry for thinking something different.

  2. We will put up with all manner of bad behavior from men in professional situations, but women who plainly state thoughts, opinions, hard facts, or the demands they expect from subordinates are automatically painted as, “B*tches,” There is certainly a standard of behavior in the workplace (and in the world,) but niceness isn’t functional. It may be politic, but it’s not functional. That said, the gender-based socialization begins with, “Sugar and spice,” and the establishment of an expectation that women should be nurturing and NICE in our interactions. It has nothing to do with the substance of our communication and everything to do with the messages we receive from childhood: Boys (and men) have a right to authority, girls (and women) don’t. It’s not that I don’t still do it to some degree and in certain situations, often to be sarcastic (Kristin, you know I tend to be. . . incendiary at times,) but professionally, unless I’ve done something to apologize for or I have to disturb someone in the middle of something: NOPE.
    When the whole, “Ban ‘Bossy,” thing was introduced, I laughed myself sick because we actually need to teach girls to be bossy, i.e., own their right to speak, rather than remove a word that is one of about a hundred used to reinforce the message, “Girls should be seen and not heard,” (borne out by the fact that even when speaking only 17% of the time, women are viewed as speaking as much as men in a group do, if not dominating the conversation.)

    Communicating in a clear and concise way isn’t a flaw, neither is centering our own authority on a topic when it’s relevant, and yet we feel like it’s social error to do those things.
    Right now, I’m in love with the 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn, (and use) “Stop interrupting me,” “I just said that,” and, “No explanation needed.”

  3. I’m just an Ally and apologize way too much because I often feel bad without the world or people having to do anything else. But its true. I’ve had to teach myself the opposite because in tech if you’re not assertive, you don’t get anywhere with users/management. If you sound wishy washy they know they can take advantage of that and squeeze support out of you that they normally wouldn’t be able to. There’s plenty of men who are the other way that will think you’re bitch and heck even other women but I’d say being more aggressive is a benefit for me and not a bad thing. I’ve learned to ignore people who think I’m a bitch. At the end of the day I get the job done and the promotion.

  4. Reblogged this on Idle Ramblings From Yours Truly and commented:
    This is a really interesting topic and I’d love to see this get discussed more. I’m in the apologize too much and it’s because I’ve always felt bad about things before anyone’s told me that I should. I get exhausted sometimes with how I get kicked for being over sensitive but I’ve also seen where being more aggressive is favorited too. It’s really not an easy road to walk and can cause a lot of conflicts.

    My thoughts: Just be you and be the best you you can. You will not always communicate everything the way others would like and you may come off as pushy, but if it’s something you’re passionate about.. Find a way to talk about it and be less afraid of the what if’s.

so say you...

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