February 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
Our speech patterns influence our behaviors. That’s usually a big “duh” point for people, and for a word junkie like me especially. I tend to be very aware of the words I use (admittedly, often those words completely skip my intended meaning).
Sometimes, though, I catch myself slipping into passive language in a way that drives me nuts. This morning I wrote an email regarding the Women’s Series in which I had to enforce the criteria participating races must meet. If you want to be part of the 3/4 Series, you must provide single-category races for the cat 3 and cat 4 women’s fields. Simple enough, right?
Simple enough to state the criteria, sure, but I felt the need to add a paragraph at the end explaining why I couldn’t offer any exceptions. Why? Because those are the rules? Because it wouldn’t be fair to the other participating races to allow one race to do something different? Both fantastic and valid reasons. Add a little note about how you appreciate everyone who wants to support women’s racing by being part of the Series, and really hope that it works out. Two true and diplomatic statements that keep me stuck to my guns.
But I found myself going beyond those reasonable (even generous) explanations, all the way to the I’m so sorry I hope you don’t think I’m a ball-busting bitch because I can’t give you what you want I really would if I could I swear.
That is not how I talk. I have no problem being assertive in conversation, and I accept that some people just aren’t going to like what I have to say. But even though there’s nothing wrong with telling someone they can’t change the criteria that they’ve agreed to meet, after doing it I turned into a submissive little thing, offering unnecessary explanations and apologies.
What the hell? Was it because I was speaking for an organization rather than myself? Did I think I was just being nice (which is easy enough to do without the submissive undertones)? Do I unconsciously fall back on self-deprecation as the easy way out of a potentially sticky situation? Did I fall asleep at the wheel?