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Self Esteem say-what-you-mean

Published on October 7th, 2012 | by Kelie Kyser


Say What You Mean –Voice Inflection and Repetitive Apologies

Let’s discuss a womanly habit that may be stifling your professional performance and progress.  You may not even realize you’re doing it.  I’m talking about voice inflection and our propensity to apologize repeatedly in an effort to keep the peace.  Are you guilty of constantly saying “I’m sorry” or unconsciously ending your statements in a high-pitched tone leaving room for debate about something you intended to assert?

The use of upward inflection and apologetic offerings are conversation crutches women manipulate out of anxiety and insecurity.  Research surmises that women find refuge in social settings by apologizing for things they don’t have control over – a tactic used to recover hegemony of the situation.

But did you know that you may unintentionally be undermining your credibility and/or displaying a lack of confidence with every baseless apology?  Equally damaging to our self-esteem is our penchant to end a resolute statement with the folly of a valley girl.  It is difficult to be taken seriously when you sound as if you aren’t sure whether you’ve warranted approval.

I dug around the world of psychology and found out that men tend to apologize less because (in layman’s terms) they just don’t find themselves that offensive to begin with.  And really, when was the last time you heard a man ask for forgiveness before offering his opinion in a business meeting?  President Obama and Mitt Romney would sound mighty uncertain if they spent the lion’s share of the recent presidential debate apologizing for conflicting opinions.

Guilty as charged –I’ve apologized during a heated dispute because I didn’t share an antagonistic view.  I’ve also apologized (on more than one occasion I’m sure) to a stranger in the produce section for pushing my cart in an aisle that was constructed for one shopper at a time.  When you take the time to consciously tune in to your vernacular, you realize how ridiculous this nasty habit sounds.

Ladies take a cue from men and stop claiming all that is wrong in the world.  Try hard not to unconsciously demean your opinion in conversations with upward inflection. Practice endorsing your views with validation.   Say what you mean!

Are you guilty of apologizing unnecessarily and high-pitched uncertainty?

I’ve shared my story, now tell me yours – I’m sorry…is that too forward?


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About the Author

is a reporting authority. Her talent lies in the ability to communicate succinct messages that are rich with information to a diverse audience. The Denver native holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

4 Responses to Say What You Mean –Voice Inflection and Repetitive Apologies

  1. NRT says:

    I definitely have the awful habit of unnecessarily apologizing. Often times I am the only minority in many of my classes and I feel if I am too assertive I will be seen as the stereotypical “angry black womam” or the B-word among my male colleauges.

    • Kelie says:

      The psychology of being a minority is such a mind trip. I’ve been told that I look “serious” or “mad” when in reality – I just walk around with a lot on my mind. My demeanor has been miscalculated by others in scenarios (classroom/workplace) similar to the one you describe. Here’s what I think – you can’t walk around apologizing for observations that are unfairly assigned and false. You CAN smile in lieu of apologizing for being the smartest girl in class or the hardest worker amongst your colleagues:-) Nonverbal cues are in your control; however, there is nothing you can do about other’s insecurities.

      P.S. It’s a daily struggle for me to follow my own advice on this one:-)

  2. Barb Starz says:

    Loved the article on “Say What You Mean……” I do that all the time.

    • Kelie says:

      I do too! Not so much the high-pitched inflection, but I definitely over analyze and apologize too much. However, you would be surprised how easy it is to correct bad habits when you become aware of their negative impact on your personal welfare.

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