Saturday, February 20, 2016

In Defense of the Apology, Nice Lady, I’m Not a Part of Your System

I’m always threatening (internally to myself) to go on a media fast and stop looking at the internet and reading articles, especially news and pop culture blogs. And especially those ubiquitous “how to succeed at work when you’re a lady” articles that the perpetually annoying Linked-In sends me via e-mail. A media fast would have been a good thing this week, considering the number of messed-up articles I came across about how women are doing everything wrong: There’s the ongoing shouting match between young, feminist Sanders supporters and older, feminist Clinton supporters. There’s the latest, predictable incarnation of the mommy wars. And there was more than one finger-waggling article about how women are screwing up at work by over-apologizing and speaking too passively. According those authors, women are “undermining themselves" by apologizing and using weak language on the job: Now, ladies, let's not be wimpy! Be bold, straightforward and concise--but not too bold, because there are penalties for seeming aggressive, but also not too soft, because there are penalties for seeming ineffectual. Oh, and by the way, if you're an empathetic person who cares about the needs and experiences of others, that's just your anti-feminist cultural programming, which you should ditch immediately in order to assert your way (un-aggressively) to the top. I feel like I’ve spent the entire week being lectured by a feminist hive-mind.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the apology. There seems to be this cultural myth that the person who apologizes loses face or somehow demeans themselves or gets irreversible  points-off in the worthiness department. Apologies in this culture are hoarded like gold, and doled out with bean-counting grinchy-ness. By all means, if apologizing has become a mindless verbal tic for you, sure--work on that. But I apologize a lot, and I’m not sorry about it. I apologize to demonstrate empathy, humility and kindness, and to build a sense of comradery. It doesn’t hurt me personally to apologize. I don’t feel demeaned or lessened by it. And I don’t feel like it diminishes my status in the workplace. Granted, I work in a traditionally female-oriented “helping profession” where being relational is important, but even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t change my approach. According to a values survey I took for work this week, I’m a Cultivator. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it seems to have something to do with being a professional Nice Lady, which I don’t mind a bit. The world needs more of those, if you ask me.

Contradictorily, that same survey also analyzed me as being someone who doesn’t like rules. I was slightly miffed by that assessment at first. It made me feel misunderstood by their algorithm. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of rules—I do—I just don’t like having to follow arbitrary rules that prevent me from accomplishing my goals. Or that get in the way of me getting what I want. In other words: I don’t want to be a part of your system, man! The Lonely Island understands--see below video. (Warning: It gets a little dicey towards the end. Don’t watch if bawdy humor isn’t your thing.)

--Kristen McHenry

1 comment:

Anne Harrington said...

I love The Lonely Island. There's nothing more aggravating than being misunderstood by another's algorithm.