It’s a frosty Michigan morning, and your kid has a doctors appointment. You calculate the precise time they need to get up, so they won’t be cranky in the exam room, and you wake up extra early to shower and get dressed. You spend 15 minutes bundling up the little one and double checking you have ample toys, diapers, snacks and anything else to avoid meltdowns. Finally, you arrive exactly 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment time, and they tell you, “We are so sorry, we forgot to call, but your child’s doctor is out sick today.”
So you say, “Oh! Um, that’s OK.” But it is not. It is totally NOT okay. Does this sound familiar?
As women, we tend to tell people things are fine even when they are not. We are stuck on an overly polite auto-pilot. It has been a goal of mine to stop this bad habit, but I never took it seriously until I became a mother.
So this year, my New Year’s Resolution is to STOP saying “It’s OK” when it’s not.
We all do it.
For you, it might not be the doctor’s office. It might be the sitter canceling last minute or that co-worker who “didn’t see” your urgent email. “It’s OK” may even be something you say to your significant other or your parents. Regardless of the situation, if you think hard enough, you’ll find that women tend to try and be too nice sometimes.
This got me thinking about the daughters in our lives: what are we teaching them with this behavior? Why do we, as mothers, feel conditioned to be polite, to not always say what we are actually thinking? Why do we sometimes leave it to our husbands, brothers, or friends to be the “bad guy”? Furthermore, what am I teaching my son about women?
We tell our children to “treat others as you want to be treated,” so we should all feel that being polite is paramount; however, we should also all believe that we have the opportunity to stand up for ourselves.
It’s not you; it’s science.
Remember that time your salad came, and the lettuce was literally brown on top? Did you “feel bad” when you had to ask the server to take it back? Be honest…you did. You may have even begun with “I’m sorry, but this salad…” Take a deep breathe, lady. We have been programmed this way.
This behavior isn’t something you woke up with one day; it’s actually something many of us learned as adolescents. The Child Mind Institute found that as we grow, boys and girls learn who they are and how they fit into society differently. While boys are often praised for confidence and assertiveness, girls are expected to show the same traits but in different ways. Example: be strong as long as it doesn’t upset anyone in any way.
The word “appropriate” gets thrown around a lot. Girls are told to behave like ladies, and women are told they need to act accordingly. A Bustle article challenging these gender stereotypes points out that throughout history there have been many strong, courageous women who were able to speak assertively without worrying about making anyone cry. While we are often portrayed as the parent who kisses the boo-boos and makes the cookies, we need to remind ourselves that we are also the parent who brought this kid into this world. Ever see a man do that? We are warriors, too!
What it all comes down to, at the core, is guilt. Dr. Lois Frankel of Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office explains that women are conditioned to be considerate of other’s feelings, and this translates into guilt. Guilt weighs us down, and therefore, we choose not to advocate for what we really need in that moment for fear of not seeming “nice.”
Empathy is a trait we should teach all our children, not just girls. Being assertive and strong-minded is a behavior we should praise in all our children, not just our sons.
Break the bad habit.
Women have a secret weapon in getting what we want. We have the perfect formula of being so sweet yet so convincing. Breaking the habit does not mean becoming men. Find that strong voice within you and then make it your own!
Here are some great phrases to use when you feel an “it’s OK” coming on:
- “I understand what you’re saying but…” – people are more receptive when they feel heard.
- “Thanks for letting me know.” – you are not admitting something is OK; you are just acknowledging the information.
- “I appreciate you trying, but that won’t work for me.” – look at that! Still polite, still direct!
- “I’d like to suggest something that may work better.” – It’s you who has been inconvenienced, so tell them what you need!
- …and if you find yourself at the pediatrician’s office (like I did), and they seemingly “forgot” to call you, try this one – “I hear yah! When it rains it pours. Unfortunately I scheduled this appointment on my day off, so I can’t come back tomorrow. I’m going to need a time today, or maybe there is a manager I could speak to, so you can attend to the others waiting in line?”
These are just a few of the ways we can start to break the “It’s OK” habit and show our children what confident and classy looks like!