Common Ways Women Undermine Their Words

photo“I’m sorry, Mom. These muffins are really messy,” said my 3-year-old daughter a few mornings ago. It was clear she wasn’t apologizing for making a mess. She was really saying, “I hate to tell you this, but these muffins you made crumble really easily.”

My daughter probably could write the book on giving straightforward feedback. Just a couple of weeks ago she told my friend she was driving too fast. She doesn’t hesitate to comment on my housekeeping.

Recently, however, there has been a new addition to most of her (usually painfully accurate) critiques: The words “I’m sorry.”

My husband was really surprised when she started doing it. He thought she was truly apologizing to him, as if he were some scary guy that needed tip-toeing around. I don’t think it’s an apology…it’s an observation about language.

She is mimicking what she hears. She hears women apologizing without reason. Start the sentence with “I’m sorry,” she has concluded, if the person isn’t going to like what you have to say.

It’s painful to see how young this socialization starts.

It makes me aware of the many ways women are taught to communicate that actually undermine the clarity and power of their words. Here are some that I notice:

  • unnecessary apologies
  • over-explaining
  • being vague
  • dropping hints
  • obscuring the main point
  • not speaking first
  • agreeing when not in agreement
  • using too many unnecessary words
  • taking too long to get to the point

Women often complicate, dilute, or otherwise distort their messages by making attempts to be “nice.” The result is to actually be poor communicators when it matters the most.

What do you think, do women undermine their messages? Are women socialized to be too apologetic, too indirect in their communication?

I’m passionate about teaching straightforward communication skills that are thoughtful but crystal clear. You can be kind and direct.

Next Thursday, September 25th I’ll be co-facilitating at Women Standing Together in Portland, Maine, on the topic Dare to Speak Up and Be Heard. I’m looking forward to talking with women about how we can be more effective and powerful communicators. Check out this free event

I also have the pleasure of presenting the workshop Effectively Frank™: Authentic Communication Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs. It is being held at the Women’s Business Center at CEI in Portland, Maine from 5:30pm-8:00pm on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014. The workshops focuses on the 5 steps to being Effectively Frank™: how to more successfully and confidently communicate.

If you want to join the conversation or learn new skills, sign up for these great events soon. I’m also offering an individual communication coaching package- get more info here.

I hope to see you!

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me.




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