Using phrases Like 'I'm sorry' and 'I feel like ..." is actually effective communication.
The other day, I saw an article in The Guardian entitled, "Talking While Female: An Expert Guide To The Things You Definitely Should Not Say."
And, much like the writer of that article, I'm getting pretty damn tired of the media and so-called experts criticizing 'feminine' ways of speaking (i.e. women saying things like: "I feel like...", "I was just wondering ..." or "I'm sorry", etc.). Notice that because it's a behavior attributed to women, it's considered "bad" or "weak," instead of exactly what it is: connection building and straight-up smart!
I've had a way with words my entire life, and you better believe I actively study and attentively observe the power of language and specific phrasing in every situation I'm in, and I'll tell you what ... the use of "I feel like ..." and other 'softer' phrasing is actually incredibly wise in most cases.
So, here are a couple of thoughts on the subject of women and our much maligned habits of using 'feminized' speech:
1. If you haven't noticed: People are insecure ego-maniacs.
And 'feminized' language pacifies those people so they feel safe enough to hear what you're actually trying to communicate. When you care about other people and seek to truly connect with them (not just manipulate or bully them into doing what you say) you actually WANT them to feel safe.
And so you take the time to phrase things in a way that communicates your point, but also takes into consideration nearly every person is insecure in some way, and egos trigger easily.
Whether people should or shouldn't have insecurities or egos doesn't matter because, guess what: THEY DO! So, taking that into consideration when phrasing your message seems like strong, socially-savvy communication skills to me, not weakness.
2. A LOT of men could stand to rethink their 'masculine' communication style.
I find it ironic that, on one hand, we like to say that "men are lousy communicators" (usually used to get them off the hook in relationships), but on the other hand, we imply women should communicate more like men in the workplace.
(Um, I thought men were lousy communicators?!)
Talking bluntly to people doesn't make you powerful or authoritative, it makes you a lazy, tactless jerk. If your goal is to lead instead of just boss people around, then a lot of males in the workplace might try a bit of that 'softer' language on for size.
You just might find your message is received and followed through on ... better.
I spend most of my work days as an editor giving people feedback on their writing. Advising them on how to change their word choice and article structure to communicate more effectively with readers. Most days, I have sufficient time to send my feedback phrased thoughtfully with extra care. Other times, I'm super slammed and racing to get a reply back to the writer so she or he can keep working.
During those times, I cut to the chase and just offer the advice itself, no padding, just direct and straight to the point.
I assure you: The advice itself is EXACTLY the same in nearly every email.
The ONLY difference is how much time I had to soften (or 'feminize') the message around that advice.
You better believe the feedback those writers give to others about working with me reflects whether they received my more carefully phrased messages or my more rushed, direct and to the point ones. The writers who love me and think I'm a fantastic editor usually get my thoughtful emails consistently.
The writers who complain typically received a rushed email as their last correspondence from me ... even though the actual advice given to both sets of writers is almost identical.
My point: You better believe this 'feminine language' stuff matters!
On numerous occasion throughout my career, I've also been paid to write letters or emails for other people (ranging from high-powered heads of national organizations to husbands whose wives were about to leave them) to help those people get OUT of volatile conflict situations with someone important. My job was to help my clients communicate their point of view in a way that builds connection, restores trust and helps motivate the other person to hear their point of view with an open mind.
In every single case, it was the use of 'feminized' language that effectively did the job; not blunt, direct, matter-of-fact phrasing.
Do women apologize too much in general, in life and in the workplace? Yes, I agree with that. We do.
But when it comes to the rest of the relentless critique of 'feminized' speech, I disagree that it minimizes impact.
The way women speak is fucking POWERFUL.
It is EFFECTIVE. It unites people, lowers defenses, open people's mind and hearts, and moves ideas forward. It is smart and strategic. And, at the same time, it is also compassionate. It takes effort and it's worth that effort.
And I, for one, think it's high time we start showing 'the way women speak' the respect it deserves!