I was in a meeting the other day where there was a vigorous discussion about a project, and who had point on what, and it was basically a come-to-Jesus moment on the lack of forward movement on said project. It wasn’t ugly, but there was definitely direct conversation about responsibility and accountability. In short, it was a little tense and there was some conflict. It also happens that most of the people involved in the discussion were women. In the post-analysis of the meeting (and we all know THAT happened), the woman who had been the most direct in her approach, called me and said “why do I feel compelled to apologize” after that meeting?

Why indeed? In my opinion, no lines had been crossed. There was validity in the discussion, in the approach and in the tone and manner. As noted, it was direct and to the point, but it was totally professional.So, why do women feel the need to apologize for speaking their minds and being direct?

I’m no stranger to this myself. I’m direct and have a point of view that I’m willing to share. I’ve been told I’m blunt, aggressive and fearless. I have many men colleagues who share these same attributes, most of whom I like and admire. So, why have I, in certain situations, hedged my own authority with phrases like “Sorry, but I have another point of view on that.” WHY AM I SORRY I HAVE ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW? My point of view is based on years of experience in entertainment marketing — I’m not offering an opinion on nuclear physics (which would require me to be very, very sorry to all nuclear physicists). My point of view is at least as worthwhile as my male colleagues, none of whom are going to apologize for having a differing point of view.

Pantene actually examined this behavior in a 2014 commercial titled “Sorry, Not Sorry” which got them some excellent press coverage.

Props to Pantene for this spot, but even better, Amy Schumer’s sketch “I’m Sorry” brilliantly and completely skewered this ingrained pattern.

So why does this continue to happen? There’s a lot of research that I’m not going to quote that basically says women’s brains are hard-wired to be more emotional and that societal norms make us feel that we have to soften potentially aggressive communication with an apology.

To this I say F@$K that. This business is hard enough. It’s demanding, fast moving, and reliant on the appetite of mercurial and fickle viewers. It requires creativity, strategery, imagination, constant negotiation and the flexibility of an army of Cirque du Soleil performers. Let’s take the unnecessary “sorry” out of the equation. Seriously, we have enough to do without undermining our own presence and authority with a passive aggressive “sorry” that we don’t even mean. As my mother used to tell me: Say what you mean and mean what you say. She also always told me to spend money on good shoes because cheap shoes will ruin your entire look. But that’s a column for another day.

And I’m not going to apologize for that either.


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