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Sorry, not sorry.

As women we’ve all been there, you are walking down a crowded street and someone bumps into you. Your knee jerk reaction is to say “sorry” to that person as if you’ve done something to offend them. Why is that?

Women are often afraid to be perceived as direct, rude or “difficult”, so much so that they will overcompensate by apologizing unnecessarily. By overusing the word “sorry”, it puts women in a position of subservience, and potentially makes others lose respect for them. Most women are guilty of this at some point, and it often goes unnoticed by those who have become accustomed to the habit, but we need to step back and think; are we really sorry? And if we are, what are we really sorry FOR?

From a young age, women are taught to strive for perfection. Society tells us that in order to be the “prefect lady” you must always look your best, speak eloquently, and be polite. Sometimes we can mistake politeness with compliance, just to do what we think everyone expects out of us.

CNN covered a Pantene ad (which has nearly 3 million views on YouTube) that depicts various women in the workplace who begin each statement with “sorry” when addressing their opinion. One woman says “sorry” while knocking on her boss’s door, while another says “sorry” when her elbow is knocked off the table by her male co-worker, while he remains silent. When you watch this video from an outsider’s perspective, it seems ridiculous that these women would apologize in these situations, but as a woman watching this ad, it is eerily accurate. Because it has become so accepted in today’s world for women to apologize for every little thing, it becomes harder to recognize. We need more ads like Pantene’s to tell women that they don’t have to be “sorry” for existing.

As seen in the Pantene ad, the use of “sorry” particularly in the workplace can be detrimental to a woman’s career. As women, being in the business world is not easy, even despite our progression in society. Some have a preconceived notion that female leaders in the workplace are not as strong as men in power. If you hold a leadership position in your job and continually say words like “sorry” or “maybe” before an idea or command, you may be perceived as a woman who is unsure of herself and her ideas.

Women need to make a conscious effort to stop apologizing unnecessarily and be strong in their voice. The more command that a woman exudes, the more respect she will receive. Is the risk of someone thinking you’re “rude” really worth being perceived as weak? So make a change, really think about your words and ask yourself, “am I really sorry?”

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