Powerful Speaking for Powerful Women

Tricia Karp

Jane Miller is a lawyer.  An accredited family law specialist.  A partner in her firm.  She’s also the go-to lawyer for media comment on all things pre-nuptial, divorce and custody.

Jane’s a firm and assertive negotiator for her clients, who are mostly women.  That’s her job, and she makes no apology for it.

I’ve learnt how to not be too nice because I’m representing clients and it’s my obligation to do the best job I can for them.  I have to get the job done respectfully and without compromising somebody else’s position.  It’s been good training for me.  I can easily go in and negotiate for a client with a lot of integrity and not feel like I have to apologise for that behaviour.

Jane has made apologies though for which she does feel sorry.  For apologising, that is.  I’ll explain.

After a work meeting in which Jane expressed strong views, she worried she’d gone too far.  She thought she’d been too assertive.  The next day she apologised:

After that I felt like I’d sold out on myself.  I realised I didn’t actually need to apologise for that. I was just doing my job in expressing my views.  The apology was completely unnecessary.

One of my roles is to be really honest with my employer about how our business is tracking and how I’m seeing it, and it might be something they don’t want to hear but it’s my responsibility to pass on that information so they can deal with it.  I think withholding information because you think that’s the nice thing to do may not actually be in your employer’s best interest.

It’s the same if you go to a restaurant and you have a bad meal and you don’t tell them about it.  You don’t give them a chance to rectify it because you want to be nice about it.  That’s not actually helping them in any way so honestly delivering your message in the appropriate manner can help everybody.

Saying sorry – most of the time – is an unnecessary evil.  It’s a particularly female habit too.  From apologising for wanting to use the fax machine while your colleague is already standing in front of it, to saying sorry and copping flack because of your manager’s poor communication, to apologising for having an opinion and expressing it… sorry isn’t serving you.

Sorry flattens your self-confidence, and the confidence others have in you.  It makes you look like you’re at fault when you’re not. It’s also an attempt at reducing potential conflict. Sorry wants to make everything nice. It loves to keep the peace.

Power Talk Tip: Don’t apologise unless you’ve made a serious error.  And let’s face it – that’s rare.

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You can find out more about Jane here, and on LinkedIn.  Follow her on Twitter too.