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Company Culture

Why We Believe in Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ at Work (At Least At Our Startup)

A lot of people want to help women succeed in the business world lately, which is an awesome trend to see.

There are an ever-growing number of programs and initiatives focusing on everything from getting girls interested in coding to getting professional women into leadership roles.

One interesting offshoot of this trend has been an emphasis on language and speech—it feels like more and more well-meaning people are giving thought to the words women should say (and not say), and how they should say them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a few of the phrases that seem to come up quite a lot in the “don’t say” column, like:

  • “Sorry”
  • “Just”
  • “I think”
  • “Does that make sense?”

Using phrases like these, some career coaches might tell you, can undermine your knowledge, make you look less confident and minimize your contributions to a team.

Now there’s even Just Not Sorry, a plugin for Gmail that highlights “undermining words” you type, including “just,” “sorry” and others.

just not sorry

Its creators have a really heartfelt, awesome explanation for why this tool felt important to them to create:

“When someone uses one of these qualifiers, it minimizes others’ confidence in their ideas. Whether you’re persuading an investor to provide funding, announcing a change in direction to your colleagues, or promoting your services to a client, you are building their confidence in you.”

women and language

I absolutely understand this reasoning, and it makes sense that this is the attitude that’s necessary for success in many (most?) modern work environments.

Here’s the feeling all this advice gives me. If women want to lead, they need to “man up.” Be direct. Decisive. Bold. No-doubt-about-it statements only.

But wait…does this have to be what leadership looks like?

What would it look like if we stopped telling women to harden their language, and instead encouraged everyone to start softening it?

I think I have an inkling of what that could be like, and it’s a pretty great world to work in.

Suggestive, not authoritative

At Buffer, we take the opposite path. It’s coded right into our value of listening to deliberately focus on language that’s suggestive instead of authoritative:

It’s rare to hear words like “definitely” or “I know” in our Slack chatrooms or videochat discussions. You’re far more likely to hear:

  • “Maybe we could …”
  • “I wonder if …”
  • It’s my intuition that…
  • I sense that we could possibly…
  • Might it work to…

In other words, all those phrases that women are being encouraged to take out of their vocabulary to be successful? They’re exactly the ones that we believe help make our team strong.

6 times we were sorry

I wanted to make sure we were actually living our value here and not just paying lip service to it, so I searched our Slack and Discourse discussions for some examples of “just,” “sorry” and other softening language (from both genders).

Here are 6 times we were sorry, or “just” wondering something:

Sorry for dumping our thoughts out Julian sorry

Just wanting to flag an issue

Dave just

Sorry for a long reply

Phil sorry

Just putting it on the radar

Boris just

Sorry for sharing to the whole team

Steven sorry

Sorry about the confusion; just making sure

amy adam sorry just

Some people might read these examples and conclude that we spend a lot of time apologizing, qualifying and deferring to one another. They would probably be right.

Maybe it’s because we’re an entirely remote team, working around the world with all kinds of beautiful language and cultural differences. We work hard to be clear and positive in our communication, and create a welcoming and collaborative environment.

Does it take longer to work and communicate this way? Definitely. Is it worth the extra effort? We think so.

In fact, we apologize so much that this awesome cartoon by Yao Xiao about saying “sorry” when you really mean “thank you” really resonated with many of us.


At Buffer, “sorry” is perfectly acceptable because softness is OK and encouraged. Now we’re learning that “thank you” might oftentimes be even better. (It’s a good thing we treat everything as a hypothesis and remember we could always be wrong!)

A few benefits of softer language

Using softer, more giving language might not be the right way for everyone, but it works well for our team so far. A few big benefits I’ve noticed:

  • We don’t always have to have the answer
  • We can be wrong without being embarrassed
  • We can ask “silly” questions without fear
  • We can have time to reflect when we need it
  • Even introverts can feel empowered to share thoughts
  • We never have to give or take orders
  • We can get more input without pressuring anyone

benefits of softer language

How do you feel about this?

It’s not our goal to get the whole business world to come around to our way of thinking (remember, we might be wrong!).

I guess I just wanted to share a different viewpoint and let you know that—man or woman—if these phrases are part of your vocabulary, you can still have a great career—maybe even at Buffer!

Sorry for going on so long here :)

I’m super curious to hear your thoughts and feelings on this! Please share with me in the comments!

  • Fascinating. I’ve never looked at “sorry” as an admission of weakness, lack of gravitas, or any of the power buzzwords floating around in business.

    None of us should be afraid to show a lack of understanding about something, or mis-underestimating things.

    The hardest sentence for most people to say is, “Sorry, I was wrong.” It shows weakness in a brutal business world. But, like you wrote, I wish it wasn’t that way.

    I love your philosophy of soft words. It salves egos and softens the heads of those who would otherwise flare up and be confrontational.

    Plus, it just makes for a nicer environment.

    (Edit: Oh no…Ramble Alert)

    • I’m glad you’ve never been made to feel that “sorry” was an admission of weakness, David! I wish that were the experience for all people! Love your thoughts here. :)

  • Carolina Rosabal

    Loved this one! It’s amazing how all your posts are always so timely. I think it’s always hard to be both nice and serious when giving advice or suggesting something, without being considered rude and still be taken seriously.

    Human relations are a complicated thing, but this approach of yours seems to make it easier. I’m always impressed by Buffer’s culture and I wish every other job went the same path you’re going.

    Thanks for sharing these amazing thoughts and experiments with the world. I personally learn a lot and always try to put them into practice in my workplace, my home and any other field.

    You really inspire a lot of people to be better, both personally and professionally, including myself (sorry for being soooo honest and looking like a Buffer fangirl but well, I am :) )

    • What a wonderfully kind note, Carolina; thank you so much for the encouragement to keep going and sharing more in this direction!

  • Brendan Moore

    I think that the softened language and position that everything is a hypothesis is a good approach for developers to take. My sense is that there is usually more than one way to solve a problem, and it can be really difficult to foresee which will be a better fit better trying some things out.

    There are a lot of opinionated people out there with strong convictions about the “right” way to do some thing or another. They can be especially hard to ignore if they are a work colleague who is a superior to you, leading to probably a lot of unfortunate implementations.

    Instilling a vocabulary of exploration and trials seems like it will lead to a better overall product.

    • This approach has worked well for us so far, Brendan! Thanks so much for your great thoughts and encouragement here!

  • Emily Christensen

    This is amazing! :) I think I often use “sorry” and “just” in my emails. I’ve had people say that I can delete those words, but I tend to hesitate because I feel that without “just” – like you mentioned – it doesn’t sound as soft (or suggestive). I like to say that something is just my opinion and that there might be other ideas out there to consider. :)

    Thank you for this great post! :) I really enjoyed reading your point-of-view. :)

    • Thanks so much for checking it out, Emily! I really like your philosophy on language in emails. :)

  • This is empowering, Courtney. Liberal, new, but I think needed in today’s working and tech environment. Happy to see Buffer leading/opening this conversation. Brave post.

    • Thanks so much, Rachel! I feel very lucky to work in such a supportive environment; I know it might be quite different for many others.

  • Yolcu

    You really don’t have to go that far, I can think of any dialogue I had at the workplace and apply this to the answers I read and the dialogues are turned into something to read with pleasure, kind words that encourage to think it over and over again. Maybe I’m a little bit too emotional, but this looks like it is the right way.

    Knowing that there is a team out there that lives up to this culture makes me cry tears of joy.


    Your culture document also has come a long way. I remember that the first one I read was version 0.3 (alpha).

    • Oh my gosh, it is so incredibly special and heartening to read your kind thoughts here, Yolcu! What a cool exercise to apply these ideas to conversations you’ve had at work. And yes, our values deck is always evolving. A new version should be coming soon!

  • Andreas Divaris

    Thank you so much for these insights Courtney! I feel our culture is so obsessed with helping women succeed in business when business culture has been traditionally defined by men. Success in this context would mean adopting male traits and that seems limiting and disempowering to me. Rather than encouraging women to “succeed” by adopting masculine roles, maybe we could strive to live in a world where we all empowered and challenged to embody either the masculine or the feminine when a situation calls for one energy over another. Each have their place and we can all learn different ways of being from each other.

    PS. I’m not a huge fan of stereotypical archetypes such as masculine and feminine, but they can serve as a shorthand to describe traditional sets of roles in our culture.

    • Wow, this comment really hits the nail right on the head, Andreas! Totally agree with all of this; there are many ways to lead and empower. Feels great to consider all of them.

  • Johnny Trash

    Courtney, thank you for posting this. It needs to be said and needs to be heard. I’ve worked with several executives, male and female alike who see soft language as weakness and seem to feel that engaging with others is a competition in which they need to come out on top.

    My collaborative style is more in alignment with yours and the Buffer mentality. Especially when you are the confident top dog, it’s important to be listening first, suggesting rather than proclaiming, acknowledging and owning the times when you are wrong, encouraging and making space for any quiet or intimidated member of the meeting.

    In the end, it’s all about connections with people.

    • Beautifully said. Sounds like you’d be awesome to work with!

  • Katrina Warren

    Just read Give & Take by Adam Grant who agrees that tentative talk can be very valuable.
    I found this article that summarizes:

    A summary of a summary…
    “Grant says that people who pose questions instead of answers, admit their shortcomings and use tentative instead of assertive speech are some of the world’s most powerful communicators.”

    Keep on bucking the thought that we all have to “be THE ONE with THE ANSWER”

    • Wow, love the idea of power with powerless communication! Cool article, thank you so much for sharing!

  • Emily Pinto

    Courtney, I was thrilled to see this post in my inbox. It’s an unjust truth that women must work harder and think twice about how they present themselves in many (most?) workplaces. I’ve been so inspired by the Buffer culture and have actually given a lot of thought to how it challenges this currently popular advice to women. It is a relief to see that the collaborative and kind culture of Buffer is admired by so many. To me, it seems that so much time is wasted and opportunities are missed when the focus is on needing to prove you’re right rather than listening first and working together. Displaying humility is a very powerful thing.
    I was also really moved by that cartoon about learning not to say “sorry” when you really mean “thank you.” This is such an empowering idea. I believe showing gratitude rather than expressing remorse (when relevant) brings even more positivity, goodwill and productivity to a situation. I’m happy to hear that you all at Buffer are also finding this might be a great tool for communication to focus on.

    • Hiya Emily! Thanks so much for this really thoughtful post. It feels great to be on a team where we can be vulnerable and share these feelings with one another; and it’s a big privilege to be able to share our way of communicating with the world. :) Yes, isn’t that cartoon amazing? A lot of us have been trying to put that into practice; it takes a bit of retraining but feels really worth it!

  • Angela Sylcott

    Interesting topic. I’ll be happy when the day comes that women not advancing or being in leadership positions at work isn’t deflected to being because of the way they talk, haha! (Don’t get me started on the recent fascination with the “vocal fry.”) Change the way you talk and you’ll fly up the ladder! Nope, just nope. Change the way you talk…and you’ll still be a woman who might be facing superiors who think you’re not qualified just by virtue of you being a woman, or think you’re not a good choice for a “heavy” job because you’re also a mom or you might decide to become one. Not saying this is what’s going on everywhere, but it still happens enough to be a concern.

    That said, I think there’s room for both “hard” and “soft” communication in the workplace. I know that in work situations I appreciate communication that sounds less like commands and more like collaborations or conversations, but I also see the value of and appreciate the efficiency that comes from being clear and definitive.

    Something I have noticed is that sometimes the use of “sorry” is actually self-consciousness and misplaced concern or “overconcern” about something that might not be there in the first place (akin to what is suggested by the “I’m just rambling” panel of the cartoon). I’m speaking specifically about situations/examples like “Sorry for the long reply…” To me, while it may be intended as consideration for others, it’s apologizing for one’s *guess* at how something they’ve done is being perceived by others, which can weaken or distract from what that person is saying.

    Over the years I found myself doing this with superiors and my clients. I eventually realized it was from the perspective of not wanting to be a bother or wanting to be deferential because ultimately they pay my bills, not because I had actually done something that required an apology (though I am always honest about when an apology from me is needed and quick to give them). So now, the test I use when I’m about to say or write a “sorry for…” is:

    1. Is there any evidence that the audience was thinking or would think that way (that it was a notably “long” reply), or am I projecting how I feel about it onto them?
    2. Is what I’m apologizing for true (was it a notably “long” reply)?
    3. Is there a cost to it being true; if so, what is that cost (i.e., what did the audience lose by the reply being “long”)?

    If what I did doesn’t pass the test, I conclude I’m worried about how I’m being perceived and I leave out the “sorry for…” Not an exact science, but it works for me.

    • I really like your philosophy here, Angela; thank you so much for taking the time to articulate it so thoughtfully. It’s important that “sorry” still mean something!

  • Glenda Turner

    Courtney, I have hesitated to post, but can’t resist today. First and foremost, thank you for having the courage to create the kind of company you are creating, and for sharing your learning. I look forward to your posts, and will use them as guides for a company I want to create in the near future.

    The words we use are very powerful, and you have created a climate where people do not have to be in fear of saying the wrong thing. At the same time, they are mindful of one another. It is terrific!

    In my view, the words we should be focusing on NOT using are violent, military, and sports words. Bootcamp comes to mind :>) but here is a list of a few others I have been collecting in the past few years: killed it, killer app, target, take a stab at it, battle rhythm, chief, home run, plan of attack, attack, that won’t cut it, cutthroat, biggest bang for the buck, burning platform, driving anything (except a car or golf ball), fight, war, warrior… Most of these we say without even thinking, and that is the problem. If we “killed it,” what do we mean by that? Did we murder something?

    I am not opposed to military or sports, but most of us are not in the military or sports. When you begin to listen, you will hear a violent vocabulary in our daily conversations and, of course, it is self-perpetuating.

    Something to think about. Again, thank you for being remarkable!

    • Wow, such fantastic thoughts here! I have never stopped to think how much of our workplace language casually connotes violence (even “shooting off” an email, perhaps). Your point is well taken on “boot camp”; I’d love to think of a better term for this at Buffer since the experience is (we hope!) the furthest thing from a real boot camp. I think i read about a startup that called it “ramp camp” (as in, getting ramped up) and thought that might be a good alternative for us. :)

      • Glenda Turner

        So happy to see your reply! I think we still live in a hunter/scarcity/fight mindset. And, from my own experience, it’s a lifetime journey to become aware and change my words/thinking. They are so deeply engrained.
        In the business I want to start, I thought of using “Orientation” for people to learn what I’m calling “Practices.” I’m sure you will find a cool term!

    • SisterMaryMutt

      But I don’t wanna give up my baseball metaphors! And I’m female. I love to say things like “He’s on the warning track,” when talking about somebody just on the edge of a big moment. Also, “I’ve got a new idea on deck.” Baseball doesn’t have as many violent metaphors as many other sports. Part of why I love the sport.

    • Sergey Sobolev

      Glenda, I believe that as soon as we start prohibiting some words or thoughts – we lose openness and transparence. I don’t see anything wrong with violence when it is required. Good part is it not that often required in some parts of the the modern world (not even most of it).
      If you are proposing to accept all parts of the person, accept also the parts which you don’t like – like violence.

  • I found the article and the topic very refreshing, to see a company where it is preferred the leadership by kindness instead of power.

    I also found it curious how the article focus on women actually resonated very well with me. Maybe it is because of a different cultural background (I’m Venezuelan) or perhaps because I was raised among women (Mother, Grandmother and Sister). Either way, I also believe that there is nothing wrong with being always kind in the way you interact with others.

    It seems to me that this is even more true at Buffer since for what I’ve learned in your company you have a much more flat hierarchy model that the typical corporate world (I remember some article about you experimenting with “Self-Management”).

    I believe that in this way the team works more comfortably with each other, keeping a happier and healthy environment. That is something worth to spread more everywhere!

    • Hi Carlos! Yup, you’re absolutely right; we do a lot of experiments in structure and management at Buffer. Making sure we all enjoy making Buffer better is really important!

  • I get chastised about this a work all the time! They tell me not to say it to clients, and my boss gets mad when I say it to her. However, I genuinely AM sorry! If the POS system is being slow, I feel that I should be able to apologize to the client for the wait, or apologize to my boss for not accomplishing all my tasks because I my time was taken up with clients. It just seems rude to me NOT to apologize for their discomfort and inconvenience.
    Also, my husband had sent me that comix in its entirety! He too feels I should harden my language.

    • Wow, so interesting to hear that, Melissa! Have you made any changes in your language as a result? I’d be curious to hear how it feels to make that shift.

      • I’ve tried to stop saying it to me boss, but I did actually (very politely!) decline to change my language for clients. My clients are always happy, and I get more compliments than anyone else in our store.
        For me, the hardest part has been explaining my reasoning to my managers and boss, and why I won’t change. It’s so odd to me that they can face people and be called things like “abrasive” or “inconsiderate” and they don’t want to adopt the softer approach. I feel like its a matter of too much pride, and feeling that empathizing will be a weakness.

  • kchapmangibbons

    I think our species as a whole needs less certainty and a more forgiving language that connotates process. It is the language of learning, humility and builds trust.

  • YESSSS!! I’ve read so many blogs, books, etc that tell us not to apologise or say “just” or “does that make sense?” or anything that qualifies.

    1. I t just feels more polite to me? (excuse me if that’s my Britishness)
    2. Sometimes I am sorry, or do need *just* a minute!

    Have we not got enough to think about in our day to day lives without worrying about if our email is bullish or forthright enough? Or if we’re demeaning our performance with an extra word?

    • Definitely hear where you’re coming from, Laura! That’s extra time we could spend doing something great!

  • felicia.cristofaro


    I love this perspective! Why are we harping on women to change their approach, when it’s an issue that should be addressed by everyone? We all just need to be more compassionate towards one another. This isn’t a gender issue; it’s a human
    beings issue. Demonstrating vulnerabilities through our speech (and “softer”
    language) makes us more approachable and trustworthy. We are all, after all,
    only human. I love that Buffer incorporates this behavior into their code of values. Thanks for another great post!

    • Thanks for your thoughts here, Felicia! Working on vulnerability at work and life has been an amazing and transformative practice for me. I feel lucky to be in a workplace that values it!

  • I came across this post minutes after challenging a colleague to be more definitive and get rid of the “I just” and “does that make sense” language in her email to a client. In this case, it really had more to do with the client and less with her as the client doesn’t respond unless there is explicit language and a direct request for something.

    I have mixed feelings on the saying sorry. I have a friend who says it for every little thing so as not to offend anyone and it drives me crazy! I often respond with, stop saying sorry. On the other hand, I do say it in some of the cases you mentioned above. When I am sorry! :)

    Anyway…interesting look at how we converse with one another and I enjoyed reading the other perspectives in the comments.

    • You bring up such a great point, Casie – so much of our communication isn’t about us at all; it’s about the recipient and the end goal. Maybe no hard and fast rule can cover all the nuances of how we communicate. Saying you’re sorry when you mean it sounds like a perfectly sensible approach. :)

  • Thanks Courtney for this very timely reminder. I’ve read the many, many articles/blogs discussing exactly what you started with – that women should harden their language. I admit, I’m the person who defaults to “sorry” or “I think” and it wasn’t until reading this that I realized over the past week or so I’ve tried to limit the times I default to “sorry.”

    And I think that’s why I appreciate the Buffer way. For me, it isn’t about being harder or softer, but rather about being authentic and not discounting someone else for speaking in a way that doesn’t match how you talk.

    So, for the time being, because my current environment appreciates a harder tone, I’ll work on saying “thank you” instead of “sorry.”

    • That feels like a great goal to me and one I’ve been working on myself! Maybe that’s the best compromise we can move toward for a better world.

  • Michael Jenkins

    Very interesting article. It saddens me that society has found it wrong for women (or men) to apologize and use the word sorry. It is one of the basic sentences we teach our children growing up. I would prefer to see someone say I’m sorry and know that they are using manners. It shows that there is compassion. Truth is no matter what is decided there will always be those who disagree and say you are doing it right or wrong. I like your approach and encourage more to follow in your footsteps.

    • Great point about how we teach children, Michael! I hadn’t thought about that. :)

  • CMGRMelissa

    Thank you, Courtney, for bringing up this very relevant and unique subject matter!

    I grew up in the arts, performing from the time I was 8, and continuing throughout high school, college, and on to professional theatre. It can be an abrasive and harsh environment, where criticism and unproductive conversation is the norm. I developed a thick skin, and never thought much of after the age of 15 or so.

    In 2005, I went to teach at a summer youth theatre program where the philosophy was completely new – that an emotionally safe environment actually fosters an environment of creativity, risk-taking, and consequently, BEAUTIFUL art. Every single day, I was impressed and amazed by these kids. They were working hard and were perfecting their craft.

    Fast forward 10 years, and now that I’m working in tech, I still believe the same. I believe “sorry” in the workplace is powerful – it demonstrates strength, and an honest attempt at moving forward for the betterment of the company. AWESOME. Amy Poehler wrote a chapter on apologies in her book “Yes, Please,” and I have re-read it a few times to remind myself how kick-ass apologizing actually is. It’s good for the workplace, the product, and the people!

    Thank you, Courtney!

    • Wow, what an awesome personal story. Thank you SO much for sharing this; it was wonderful to hear!

  • Lyndsay Cambridge

    It’s taken me a while to comment on this post as it’s completely transformed my way of thinking. I’ve been a systematic apologiser since I was six. The words ‘just’, ‘I’m no expert but..’ and ‘I hope I’m not interrupting you…’ became a regular part of my vocabulary once I reached adulthood. I have since spent the last eight years trying to curb that language. Trying to be direct and bold. But it goes against everything that comes naturally to me.

    It never occurred to me that what we should be striving for is a workplace that values these things. The kind of place that listens to everybody, not just those who speak and act a particular way.

    I think this is really powerful advice, and I’m so happy to hear that Buffer is adopting this stance.

    Thanks for changing my whole point of view Courtney! I will now embrace my way of approaching situations and my ‘softer language’ with pride!

    • So inspiring, Lyndsay! I would love to hear how this journey goes for you. I hope you can find a community that celebrates your softer language :)

  • Hardip

    Wow, just yes.

    I see the direct/bold language as by-product of old, corporate, cut-throat work environments where any weakness somehow(?!) equates to being rubbish at your job.

    I’ve only ever worked in the start-up scene where you work closely with your colleagues; it just seems ridiculous to NOT communicate in a friendly and polite way.
    I also feel it’s important to try and consciously use softer language as sentiment and intention are often lost over text. Personality and softer language is just another way to convey how you’re feeling about something.
    One last point, I have a lot of respect for those in leadership positions who use this kind of language, it shows they’re humble and see everyone as their equal.

    • Oooh, such great points here! Yes, text, email and really all online communication loses a bit of emotion and sentiment; feels great to work on keeping this point central!

  • I like that you take a stab at the idea of what words you can and can’t say. I realize that I’ve always used the softer language, but assumed that others wouldn’t think less of me for it. Although I will work on saying “sorry” less and “thank you” more! :)

    I think that when you work with remote teams, the softer language is the best approach. It not only creates a more relaxed atmosphere, but provides you the space to be wrong (as you mentioned). It’s friendly, approachable, and translates fairly well across culture. Maybe this is the unspoken benefit of a startup – to be able to give people the opportunity to be more relaxed with language in a professional setting?

    • Wow, that’s a great conclusion! It makes me super grateful for a remote environment where we think so much about the words we use; it make a big difference!

      • It does! Especially if your remote teams are in various countries. Word choice becomes extremely important for clarity and intent. But since you communicate only through text (most of the time), you need to express your friendliness somehow through words.

  • Susi Castle

    Thanks for sharing this, Courtney! Getting a glimpse into your internal comms was really nice.

    When I first read this post last week it came at a really good time – I’d just had a few email exchanges with someone who wasn’t really saying ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ when the circumstances really did warrant it. It made me question my own email style because a quick scroll through my Inbox showed that I do apologise a lot. I wondered whether it seemed weak to speak like that, but conculded that, actually, however the other person is behaving (and there’s always a good reason for anyone’s behaviour) that doesn’t mean that I have to stop being myself; I don’t have to stop being polite.

    It reminded me of how important it is to empathise with my correspondent – they’re probably very busy, or they too fall into the trap of seeing politeness and kindness as weak. If I can carry on communicating in a nice way then maybe my email will be one of the few they get that day that helps lighten their mood. You just never know what effect your words can have on other people, so always trying your best to use the nicest language seems like the best bet!

    • Yes yes yes! It’s amazing how many elements of the world that empathy is the key to. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here; I relate 100%!

      • Susi Castle

        Aw, thanks Courtney!

  • Angelique Slob

    I absolutely agree, I think the harsh and directive management styles based on power and ego are not something that should be encouraged. As someone else said, words are very powerful and it is important to take care on what words you see and how you say them.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Angelique! Words are indeed very powerful.

  • Hollie Swofford

    This post hits me right in the feels! I’ve been noticing in my work lately how when my team uses this ‘softer’ language, we truly collaborate rather than folks trying to push forward their ideas as “right,” and when we’re collaborating we’re making consensus-based decisions that feel better for the whole team. Cheers to the softer side! :)

    • So interesting to see this in practice, Hollie! Thanks so much for sharing your observation!

  • @courtneyseiter:disqus From what I’ve been reading and also having a daughter in college, much of this can be attributed to a push for gender equality or gender neutralism. I may get a lot of comments on this but….having lived for 45 years, it’s my experience that women and men are different and they communicate differently. Not wrong, just different. There is no doubt about that. The natural inclination for a woman to be nurturing, caring and empathetic has been hard-wired in a woman’s brain for millions of years. And men tend to be more pointed in language. There is nothing wrong with either. There’s a fabulous book called Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenburg, that outlines communicating compassionately whether you’re a male, female, bus driver or head of state.

    • Love Non-Violent Communication; it’s got so many ideas to aspire to!

  • The world of business is radically changing. The days of Mad Man cultures and, for that matter, marketing, are coming to some version of a close. And that is good news.

    However, it concerns me that tucked within all these very good changes is a lack of room for human brokenness. Because true honesty, true transparency, accepts on a very fundamental level, we are all imperfect.

    It will take time for people to learn new ways. All the great research that is coming out around meaningful brands, emotional intelligence, like topics, helps to make the case for a more humane business world. But it’s not easy and it’s not black and white.

    Even though my current business is an ideation practice that specializes in purpose-driven branding for small businesses, I still struggle. And there are times when an ethical but firm hand is needed. Its a balancing act, in my view. I think at the very heart of “i’m sorry” is the whole notion that we don’t always hit home runs.

    I don’t think we need softer language or harder language, I think we just need to be comfortable in own skin so we speak to the world from a more authentic place. Although I totally agree that women or anyone else, should stop being told to have any kind of voice. Have your voice, whatever that is.

    Just the other day, I was short with a vendor and wrote back with an earnest apology. He really struggling to accept it, because I’m “the client”. But after some convincing, LOL, he accepted and we were closer as a result. I would love to tell you Im always as mindful, but that is not the case.

    Great post and a business site. ;-)

    • Wow, beautifully said, Bob! Thanks so much for sharing these great thoughts.

      • As was yours- thanks! Best for a great week. ;-)

  • Ellen

    Thanks for sharing this with us. There is so much content focused on women using stronger and more assertive language these days, so its nice to see a discussion on the opposite side of the coin. In my workplace we often communicate using softer language, so sometimes I wonder if “hardening up” could be out of culture there. I really like that you shifted this more mainstream train of thought on its head, and that you are looking at a different and more inclusive way to include all of your team members effectively. Thanks.

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