Have you ever noticed that men don’t ask for permission? They ask for forgiveness. My hunch is that women ask for permission more out of habit than really needing someone to give them a green light. It’s a variation on asking questions to play it safe, but potentially more self-defeating. I expect children, not adults to ask for permission. Every time a woman asks for permission to do or say something, she diminishes her stature, and relegates herself to the position of a child, and sets herself up to hearing a “NO”
Women ask for permission for things as simple as taking a day off and as ridiculously as whether they should spend money on a particular thing required by the department despite the fact that they have already been given the signing authority. Regardless of your position, you are entitled to take independent action within a given set of boundaries. Your job is to identify those boundaries, clarify them with your boss, and act within them. I saw this PA who would go to the boss for advice on the smallest decisions like what to tell a client about their expected delivery. Believe me, your boss wants you to take the ball and run with it. It’s what you are paid for, and it makes his or her job infinitely easier.
Women need to realize that apologizing for unintentional, low profile errors erodes our self-confident and in turn, the confidence others have in us. Whether its inadvertently bumping into someone on the streets or making a small mistake in the office, a woman is far more likely to apologize that a man. Its second nature to us and often done in place of confronting the real source of the mistake. It’s a conflict-reducing technique we use, but one that makes us look like we are at fault when in fact we are not.
Tips for women who ask for permission or apologize all the time
- Inform others of your intentions, don’t ask for permission. By informing others you show respect for their need to know but without your action being contingent to their approval.
- Assume you are all equal
- Assume that if people have a problem with what you are saying, they will let you know. You can then negotiate from a position of greater strength.
- Don’t fall into the trap of responding to statements posed as questions. Otherwise you will wind up in a spitting match. A legitimate question is where one is asking for information they don’t have. Beware of being held hostage with questions while you want to move on. Let them ask you additional questions offline.
- Start counting the number of times you apologize unnecessarily.Consciously reduce this number by saving your apologies for big time mistakes.( and there aren’t many of those)
- When you do a mistake worth apologizing for, do so only once, then move on to the problem solving mode.
- Turn the inclination to apologize into an objective assessment of what went wrong and ways to fix it.
- Avoid using apologies that put you in a one-down position as a way of ensuring you are liked. Always begin from a place of equality, regardless of the level of the person with whom you are dealing. He or she might be of a higher position than you, but that doesn’t make the person any better than you.