Do you ever notice that girls and women apologize so much more than boys and men? Why is that? How come women often start sentences with, “I may be wrong, but…?” How can we as a society help build girls’ confidence?
First, we need to explore why women say sorry more than men. Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, the author of The Triple Bind, explains that in adolescence boys and girls are expected to individuate – to grow as their own unique individuals. But girls are presented with some paradoxes:
- Be confident, but not conceited
- Be smart, but no one likes a know-it-all
- Ambition is good, but trying too hard is bad
- Be assertive, but only if it doesn’t upset anyone else
In general, girls are rewarded for noticing and responding to other people’s feelings, whereas boys are rewarded for asserting themselves. Girls who are assertive are labeled as “bossy” or “know-it-alls” in ways that boys are not.
How can you notice this imbalance in your children? Pay attention to the way they speak. Notice if your daughter is always over-apologizing (apologizing even when something is not actually bad or her fault), hedges her statements (“this might be just me” or “I hope this doesn’t offend anyone”). If that’s the case, she can use some confidence building! Here’s how you can help:
Pay attention to your own language. If you are a woman, perhaps you fall into the same trap of not wanting to appear too assertive. Start thinking about the ways that your language can affect your children.
Allow for conflict. Let your daughter know that it’s okay to disagree. Nothing bad will come of a disagreement, as long as it is conducted in a polite and constructive manner. Encourage her to stand up for what she believes in.
Be careful how you use the word “sorry.” There are times that it is necessary to say that you are sorry. Save the word for those times! And make sure you mean it. The rest of the time, banish the word so that no one is apologizing for having an opinion.