Chris Armstrong here, and yes, I’m a man. Though I have been told that I am a male feminist and double stuffed Oreo, this due to the extensive work I do in the advocacy of women and minority rights. And yes, I find the Oreo comment offensive.
Other nicknames attributed to me are Agent Provocateur and Maverick. Apparently when you advocate, you are supposed to do so in a way that offends or bothers absolutely no one and embraces careful, mind-numbingly slow baby steps of cultural progress along the way. To which I say, come again?
That would be like telling a woman she needs to ensure her communication style is both non-threatening and demure. Wouldn’t that be a terrible thing to say to someone? Who would have the gull to… what?
We do expect that of women? I had no idea. (insert sarcastic undertone). I bet all women spit in the face of such advice and expectation. I am quite sure they SWIM backward all the time! I mean, there’s no way they could possibly use any of these 10 phrases, all of which project a lack of confidence, self-worth and belonging.
Seeking Permission and Seeking Approval
1. “If I may” or “Do you mind” when starting a sentence or suggesting something. As if they don’t feel empowered or confident enough to simply say something. Don’t seek permission and don’t seek approval.
Bringing Discredit to Yourself At First Contact
2. “But anyways” after replying to a comment or suggesting something. As if what they just said does not matter and can be discarded. Act like your views matter!
3. “I think” before replying in the affirmative to their abilities to do something. As if they are not wholly confident about whatever attribute or ability they’re about to convince someone they have. Act like you are confident and that what you bring matters!
4. “I don’t know what you think about this but” before suggesting something. As if they are already making the other person’s view or opinion of the matter more important than their own. Act like you are confident and that what you bring matters!
5. “This probably sounds silly/ridiculous but” before suggesting something or putting a comment out there. As if they want an out just in case what they are about to say sounds silly or ridiculous. Discrediting your ideas before they can even be reviewed and commented on makes them a moot point rather quickly. Act like your views matter!
6. “But you might have other thoughts/ideas” after suggesting something. As if they are already making the other person’s view or opinion of the matter more important than their own. As if they are not confident about their own thoughts or ideas. Let your thoughts and ideas stand. If someone has an alternate view, they will express it. Act like your views matter!
7. “I hope you’re good with this…” after turning in a product to the boss. Talk about assuming that they will not be good with it and getting in front of that possibility. Do not deliver a product or a speech on a skeptical note. Act like your work and associated products are legit!
Acting Like You Don’t Belong
8. “Is this someone else’s seat” or “I’ll move” when they see someone coming into a meeting with limited seating. As if they are assuming that the ‘someone’ is more important than they are. Look around the room. Is anyone else keeping their eyes glued to who might need a seat? Act like you belong!
9. “I’d like to apply but…” or “I’d like consideration but…” when they know of an opportunity but can’t check every box on the application. Self-selecting out of an opportunity because you’re not 100% qualified for every qualification factor erases opportunities while giving people the perception that you’re not qualified and not confident. No one is 100 percent perfect for any job, but experience, potential to grow and confidence fill those gaps. Be confident. Act like you belong!
10. “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” when you did not do any of the three things people should actually apologize or be sorry for. Let’s walk through what those are:
- Doing or saying something with the intent to do harm
- Doing or saying something as a matter of habit or routine that harms others, with or without the intent to harm them
- As a matter of giving condolence to a tough situation, someone is going through
There is no other reason to say sorry and yet women make a habit out of it. You may see it as a matter of courtesy, but others see it as a matter of giving in, an issue of low self-esteem or taking responsibility for how something turned out. Act like you belong.
There are countless other phrases that need to be wiped from women’s vocabulary and I will end with some of my standard philosophy behind enhancing equality in the workplace.
1. It’s a 70/30 problem. Seventy percent is a bias issue. Meaning, people’s own bias will contribute to their perceptions of the roles and capabilities of others. Thirty percent, however, is a self-worth and self-management issue. Meaning, how you act will either confirm or be counter to those biases. If, for instance, men have a bias that women are demure by nature and women say or do things that compliment these views, the biases will not change.
2. While some could (and do) argue that words are only a fraction of the problem, think about these four things.
- We believe what we see and we believe what we hear.
- Words and body language generally go hand-in-hand.
- Every little change helps to either counter the aforementioned bias issue or model the confidence that we want see the younger generations emulate and appreciate.
- What we see (body language) and what we hear (words) cannot continue to legitimize the views of the ignorant.
Thank you for your time and watch your words. For your own benefit. I. Beg. Of. You.
- Full Esteem Ahead
- The Key to Freedom: Self-Awareness and Empowerment
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- Stronger: My Tale of Abuse, Divorce, And Empowerment