I read an article yesterday about the one word that’s damaging your credibility. *Spoiler Alert* the word is ‘just’. Ellen Petry Leanse, a former Google employee, moved to a new company with a higher female to male ratio and realized that females tended to soft their queries, requests, and even directives by adding a ‘just’ to it.
It’s something I’ve observed myself and my mom doing (we run a interior construction company which means we are surrounded by the types of men people put on billboards for Axe commercials and Tank-Weld ads).
But I’ve also noticed something equally sneaky that’s started to annoy me but that I just can’t get away from…
In real life it comes out as a short snicker or a gasp meant to mimic a laugh at the end of my sentences. In tech life it’s a LOL.
Every time my mom or I need to correct, reprimand, or be stern with the workmen we laugh after to ‘soften the blow’. The end result is they often don’t even recognize there was a blow and keep on with the same fool-fool behaviour because what started out as a serious conversation descended into light banter the second we added the giggle.
I do it with text friends too. Case in point a young man has been pursuing me recently and he’s the kind that wants all the details about your life and has a hard opinion on everything. Of course everytime he messages me now I want to elegantly step into a line of traffic to end the convo. Because I am incapable of blowing people off I had to bring in a consultant all the way for Ri-Ri Land to tell me what to do….after a grueling 15 minute interview where he armed me with every let them down easy or greazy tactic known to man….he cautioned against the LOL.
But then I will seem mean!
And this person who I want to stop liking me may not like me!
Apparently sometimes you have to be mean…..if by mean you mean direct.
Thinking about it, as women we often shy away from being too direct.
A) Because if you are a woman (esp one in a position of power) the word bitch is basically dangling behind you by an invisible poop string and you don’t want it to catch up …and a direct woman is almost always…a ‘bitch’.
B) Because male egos are fragile (come jump down me throat and deny it, but the fact that you fly into your feelings over it will only prove me right son, have a kleenex). And as such we don’t want to damage them. Sometimes we avoid the damage because we care about the men in question (such is the case when a long time friend makes a play for you….even after the ‘play’ stops being playful and is now bordering on problematic). Sometimes we do it because we don’t know the men well and don’t know if they are the kind who will become physically or verbally violent (Oh? you disagree? Ask the women you know how many men trace dem off because they said once and for all that they were not interested…trust me…more feelings than a girls school on their full-moon period). Most times we do it because women are bred to be nurturers and regardless of what ever else is happening we will attend to the emotional well being of the people around us….even if their f-boy antics are interrupting our own well being.
C) Because you were never taught to be direct, have no tools to handle it, and imagine some kind of nuclear holocaust as the end result of doing this heinous thing. For real. I think that if I am direct people will automatically decide I’m Cruella De Vil and abhor me. If I am direct I go home and wonder if I was too harsh and the next day go back and be extra nice to the person…even if the thing I was direct about was some mess up on their part…or I really don’t want to speak to them.
At this juncture I won’t even ask for time to myself without the LOL. It goes like this:
*Carla has a dreadful day and cannot handle another word from another human*
*Human starts speaking*
*Carla speaks to human while her eyeballs bleed from frustration, pent up anger, and the need to cry*
*Human continues talking*
*Carla: sigh, you know I’ve had a really hard day and I think I just need some time to myself (several emojis to soften the blow of needing personal time)*
*Human: oh no, what happened? are you sure you need time alone or are you hiding*
*Carla (envisions daggers): No, I just need some times with self. LOLOLOL. No hide and seek (look another joke to soften the blow)*
*Human: ok, because you know you can’t hide from the world. You have to face your battles head on*
*Carla: sends several emojis- yes that’s true. But I’m not hiding, see me here in the light (see the joke and the emojis)*
*Human: so let’s talk about it*
*Carla: no thanks, LOLOLOL, I’m just gonna have a *bath emoji*
And sadly, this is me after years of work…before I would have talked about it!
Clearly, that should have gone like this
*Carla says she needs time*
*Human asks questions*
*Carla politely reiterates that she needs time and leaves*
But you see what happened? Nothing direct and a bunch of LOLs
I have tried various ways to get around the laugh and to be more direct, but full hundred I fail most times. Saying something with no LOL and no emojis, no cartoon voices and no implied smile just seems so brash and harsh. But I know it’s rubbish. There’s nothing wrong with speaking in a straightforward way. There’s nothing wrong with speaking plainly. There’s nothing wrong with a woman just saying what she means in a tone that matches the one in her head. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the tone in your head.
So do it. Recognize that the bitch is a social construct that is used to keep you acting like a weakling because you want to avoid being called one. Accept that once you stop being so nicey nicey some people will like you less. Recognize that sometimes it comes down to your comfort versus their comfort and choose your own.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Now I am sure there are men who struggle with this. So please miss me with the ‘it’s not just women’ argument. Disproportionately I have observed women engaging this behaviour and that’s why I am speaking to them specifically.