Author Topic: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?  (Read 6083 times)

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DottyG

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2013, 05:08:19 PM »
I think you can even say, "It makes me uncomfortable when you apologize. I'm worried--do I come across as unfriendly, or unwilling to help?"

Actually, that was my first thought. I'd wonder if maybe I was giving off some kind of vibe - be it body language or a look - that made it appear that asking me to do something was an imposition needing an apology.


WillyNilly

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2013, 05:36:05 PM »
I don't apologize as much as the co-worker in the OP, but I may say "sorry" more than some people like. It's cultural. If you were to spend a day with my extended family, you'd lose count of the number of times you heard the word.
They live in Ontario (English-Canadian), and it's a word that covers a lot of ground. If you don't hear what someone said, you say "sorry?", an in "pardon?" You bump into someone, and sorry is the first response. The last time I was in Ontario I bumped into a man in a grocery store; we both said, "Sorry!" at the same time. Compare that to NYC (I live near the city), where you are not likely to hear that, and probably something more colorful.
It is true that the word's being way overused in the situation in the OP, but not all of us are using the word to get attention or to brow-beat ourselves or others.

Wow the bolded is so far from true its downright insulting.  I have lived and worked and gone to school and socialized in NYC my whole life and 95% of the time if someone bumps into someone else the first words they say are either "sorry" or "excuse me", or at worst "whoa".  Are there nasty responses, sure, but I bet occasionally someone in Ontario has a bad day too.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2013, 05:47:46 PM »
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hilla, I do the same about 80% of the time.  I personally prefer a boss say would you do X, I need itby Friday versus do X by Friday. I've never been confused about it being a question and I don't believe my employees are. It's sort of like saying "would you excuse me" when your leaving the table to go to the restroom. Your dining companions aren't going to really think they have the option.

I'm curious why you are trying to change. Where you counciled that it seemed ineffectual?

Mental Magpie

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #33 on: February 02, 2013, 06:13:56 PM »
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hilla, I do the same about 80% of the time.  I personally prefer a boss say would you do X, I need itby Friday versus do X by Friday. I've never been confused about it being a question and I don't believe my employees are. It's sort of like saying "would you excuse me" when your leaving the table to go to the restroom. Your dining companions aren't going to really think they have the option.

I'm curious why you are trying to change. Where you counciled that it seemed ineffectual?

I think the difference between what you're saying and what Hillia was saying is "could" versus "would".  I would be irritated to hear "could" but "would" wouldn't even register.  It is a direct request whereas "could" is a question of whether I am capable and/or want to.
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Auntie Mame

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #34 on: February 02, 2013, 07:15:59 PM »
I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hillia, I like that approach when people ask me to do something at work.  A very direct "please have this task done by this date".  It's my job, it's what they pay me to do, so I am going to do it or I would lose my job.  Please and thank you are big in my office, which I appreciate and being given a deadline helps me prioritize my tasks.

I can't really put my finger on why, but telling me to do something (in a polite, straight forward way) just feels more professional and respectful to me.  I am fully capable and willing to do the task so just tell me what you need.
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jaxsue

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #35 on: February 02, 2013, 11:26:01 PM »
WillyNilly, I can't copy and paste because I am on an iPad, but yes, I do see big differences between the 2 places. General differences that add up. But this thread is not about this, and I don't want to derail it.

There was no offense intended, but I removed the offending part from my post. Sorry (habits die hard)!  :)

« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 12:06:18 AM by jaxsue »

Giggity

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #36 on: February 03, 2013, 08:39:07 AM »
Why not just ask her why she begins every sentence by apologizing?
Words mean things.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #37 on: February 03, 2013, 11:01:31 AM »
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hilla, I do the same about 80% of the time.  I personally prefer a boss say would you do X, I need itby Friday versus do X by Friday. I've never been confused about it being a question and I don't believe my employees are. It's sort of like saying "would you excuse me" when your leaving the table to go to the restroom. Your dining companions aren't going to really think they have the option.

I'm curious why you are trying to change. Where you counciled that it seemed ineffectual?

I think the difference between what you're saying and what Hillia was saying is "could" versus "would".  I would be irritated to hear "could" but "would" wouldn't even register.  It is a direct request whereas "could" is a question of whether I am capable and/or want to.

Thanks.  I wasn't picking up on that. I do avoid could unless I'm really asking if something is possible.

Auntie Mame

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #38 on: February 03, 2013, 01:17:57 PM »
I think the difference between what you're saying and what Hillia was saying is "could" versus "would".  I would be irritated to hear "could" but "would" wouldn't even register.  It is a direct request whereas "could" is a question of whether I am capable and/or want to.

Yes, thank you!  That's what I was trying to articulate.  I am perfectly capable of doing my job, otherwise I wouldn't be there.  Would I do this for you?  of course I will.
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travestine

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #39 on: February 11, 2013, 04:29:10 PM »
Being Canadian, where we speak English, French and 'apologize", 'sorry' is pretty much a way of life. BUT - the prof is excessive. To me, it sounds like a lack of self-esteem - degrees and advanced education don't guarantee confidence. She may genuinely feel that she is troubling anyone she asks for assistance.  I think the OP would be doing her a service to take her aside and have a quiet discussion about her excessive use of the word "sorry". I think just trying to 'correct' her behaviour by saying 'what for' or 'I'm just doing my job' is a trifle PA and may even embarass her and make the situation worse, from her perspective.
"A "no" uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a "yes" merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."
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FlyingBaconMouse

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #40 on: February 12, 2013, 08:18:11 AM »
Maybe say, every time she does it, "Hey. [pause] You don't have to apologize—I'm happy to do it." Act concerned.

I used to have this habit in my personal life; it was basically cured by one of my friends giving me a look whenever I slipped up (after which, for about two months, I would inevitably say, "Did I apologize again? Sorry!," but eventually it worked).  ;D
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Cami

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Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
« Reply #41 on: February 15, 2013, 12:59:47 PM »
Being Canadian, where we speak English, French and 'apologize", 'sorry' is pretty much a way of life. BUT - the prof is excessive. To me, it sounds like a lack of self-esteem - degrees and advanced education don't guarantee confidence. She may genuinely feel that she is troubling anyone she asks for assistance.  I think the OP would be doing her a service to take her aside and have a quiet discussion about her excessive use of the word "sorry". I think just trying to 'correct' her behaviour by saying 'what for' or 'I'm just doing my job' is a trifle PA and may even embarass her and make the situation worse, from her perspective.
I agree with the bolded. I have a co-worker right now who sounds remarkably like this prof.And like this prof, her behavior makes her ineffectual and people view her as less than competent as a direct result of this habit.

Every time she comes into my office -- which is when I've asked her to come in to do necessary work -- she starts out with an "I'm sorry." Every time she needs to ask me a question, it's "I'm sorry." To make it worse, she also changes her voice to a very babyish, little girly, high-pitched tone. She has self esteem issues and was emotionally and physically abused by her late husband and I view her behavior as a leftover from those days when she had to kowtow and fear that if she spoke "wrong" she'd get a punch in the face.

We've brought it to her attention and response was... to apologize for doing it. So now, she starts out with, "I'm sorry and-- Oh, I'm sorry for saying I'm sorry!" All in that same voice.

I have so much sympathy for her, but it can get reallllly hard to take when she's saying it fifteen times in five minutes. I just view my patience as time off from purgatory.