The media has been all over women in the workplace this year. From how we negotiate (or don’t negotiate, depending on who you ask) to the jobs we choose to how we speak, it seems like there are constantly new ways we’re being told to change the ways we navigate the corporate world. And to be honest, it’s exhausting.
That’s why Just Not Sorry, a new app that underlines (with the dreaded red dots) words like “just” and “sorry” in women’s emails and encourages us to delete them, feels like yet another attack. Okay, so maybe that’s a BIT dramatic, and we do respect a fellow #girlboss’s tech hustle, but there are way better solutions to women not being taken seriously at work.
Instead of policing how women speak, how about we try something crazy: accepting that women are socialized to act differently from men in some ways and that — here’s the key — that’s okay. Maybe in the future if we can get things right, all kids will be raised the same way so that these kinds of differences won’t show up at work. For now, the best way to show women we’re valued in the work we do is to accept the way we do it. And that means accepting that the way we communicate is valid.
Another thing to think about — since when is speaking (or emailing) in a nice, accommodating way such a terrible way to do business? Not everyone has to or needs to have the mentality that everyone around them is competition we need to squash to get to the top of the ladder. Freelance writer, podcast host and all-around badass feminist Ann Friedman wrote an oft-cited column last year titled “Can we just, like, get over the way women speak?” In it, she interviewed Robin Lakoff, a linguistics specialist.
Here’s what Robin had to say: “Rather than being weakeners or signs of fuzziness of mind, as is often said, [words like ‘sorry’ and ‘just’] create cohesion and coherence between what speaker and hearer together need to accomplish — understanding and sharing. This is the major job of an articulate social species. If women use these forms more, it is because we are better at being human.”
Hear that, critics? Some people think women can be better at being human when we say “just” and “sorry.” So next time you’re beating yourself up about being “too nice” at work, give yourself a break. You’re doing just fine.
Would you use Just Not Sorry? Tweet us about it @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)