Submissive Language: Pledge to recognize it and stop undermining yourself!

Pledge to Recognize submissive language and stop undermining yourself

I’ve seen THREE articles in the past week or two about language women use that automatically puts us in a position of submission. Here are links:

New York TimesWhy Women Apologize and Should Stop – This article explains that women’s apologies are usually passive aggressive attempts at making someone else feel sorry, but rarely has that effect and often creates an inverse of the situation due to the unclear communication of the problem.

Business InsiderGoogle and Apple alum says using this one word can damage your credibility – The use of “just” by women is our way of asking permission. Permission to be included, to ask a request, or to make an apology for butting in to begin with.

Howlround Journal: Women Directors: Language Worth Repeating – Women directors often follow a note with an immediate undermining question such as “is that ok?” or “Does that make sense?” We think we are giving an opportunity for clarification but we are really giving the actor/designer an option to discount the note.

A friend also pointed out she recently read an article about women nodding at all things, while men only nod when they agree. Hmm.

I have already stopped apologizing in emails for things that I have no real reason to apologize for. It was hard at first – I had to go back and read drafts a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t apologizing or excusing myself in some way inadvertently. And trust me, ladies, you will see you do it to yourself a whole lot more than you think. And in ways that aren’t necessarily “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” Giving reasons for why this or that happened in a particular way is not needed, especially if they were out of your control and the client/partner/whoever has no idea that it didn’t happen according to plan anyway.

As for the “just” article – I know I am guilty of this one. In fact, I’ve even used it in a joking manner blatantly because I realize that its exactly how I would say something to apologize for saying it WHILE saying it. And I continue to use it anyway. “I just work here.” “I just wanted to ask..” “I’d just like to see the draft of this before I’m asked to sign it.” It creates a meek encounter and its no wonder there are few results with this language. And it sets up follow ups to be apologetic in nature as well. How much more submissive could I be?

The Howlround piece really struck a chord with me, since it is about women directors in theater specifically. Am I guilty of undermining the notes I give to actors? Probably. But I am not going to apologize about it. Instead, I will tell you that moving forward I am going to be more conscious of the direction and instructions I give verbally. I encourage other women to do the same. We cannot continually undermine ourselves with our language (verbal or not)! Not only does it send mixed messages to the people we should be communicating most clearly with but it gives them easy outs.

In fact, as we adjust to our more powerful communication stance, keep in mind that what you say is what you are. (And you always thought it was what you eat, ha!) Check this out: Words can Change Your Brain

Talk to me in the comments! Have you inadvertently been using submissive language? What words or phrases have you found to put you in a position of power instead of submission?


Top 3 reasons performing artists should be paid

Street performer waits for change

I used to be very involved in community theater. I loved it! It was awesome! I had so much fun twice a week…for three months of rehearsal. So you can imagine my surprise when I got to college and suddenly rehearsals occurred every night for three to four weeks straight! Suddenly, it was a job. Everyone was held responsible for being at rehearsal, on time, every night they were scheduled. It was an eye-opening experience for me. Going straight from a day of classes to a night of rehearsal, then repeating everyday for three weeks – it was hard to imagine anyone could ever choose that life permanently. Throw in the fact that you may not even be paid a decent wage – and I was O U T. That was when I decided acting was not for me! But now I am founding a company, and I want to make it very clear why I firmly believe actors (and all performing artists) should be paid for their work.

Reason #1: Performing artists do not typically hold standard “9-5” day jobs.

Since my initial induction into the world of fast-paced production schedules, I have experienced several rehearsal processes. My time spent shadowing rehearsals at Know Theatre of Cincinnati and The Carnegie in Covington, Kentucky was primarily at night, while rehearsals at Arena Stage typically began in the afternoon, and the ensemble at Cincy Shakes rehearses during the day and performs at night.  The biggest difference? The size of the organization. Arena can pay actors enough to make it a “day job.” (At least until the performances.) Shakes uses the ensemble model so they can have the same actors contracted throughout the season as full-time workers, freeing them up to rehearse during the day. Know Theatre and The Carnegie, on the other hand, have a pay scale that only supplements whatever other income the actor has. Many performing artists (in Cincinnati, at least, which has been the bulk of my experience) cobble together a variety of jobs to make rent: teaching, waiting on tables, receptionist work, and baking seem to be very common. Usually, these ventures are unreliable for a predictable income, so every paying performance job they can book is a sigh of relief – and gives them a little security cushion.

Reason #2: Performing artists have to hone their craft, even when they aren’t being paid.

Without consistent work, performing artists become…shall we say…rusty? This is especially true for musicians, as they must constantly practice to maintain the flexibility, strength, and agility to play their instrument. So – even if they don’t get a gig for a month – they still need to practice several hours a week to maintain the quality of their work for when they DO get a gig. I like Cincy Shakes’ ensemble model for this very reason – the acting company members are always honing their craft because it is their full-time job, and it shows onstage. The actors at Shakes always do a remarkable job. They could do an entire performance in paper sacks with no set design whatsoever and put on a captivating performance in which you wouldn’t even notice the bizarre costumes and lack of set.

Reason #3: Performing artists put their heart and soul on the line for every performance.

We, as humans, look for ways to relate to each other. No technology will be able to replace the feeling of having a shared, in-person experience with dozens of other people. If you don’t believe me, just think about the difference of seeing nudity in a film vs. seeing it onstage. Many people don’t think twice about seeing a film rated R with a nude scene – but if its a live performance, the same people balk. I’m certainly not advocating for or against nudity on stage but you as an audience member realize there is a certain level of intimacy involved when you know that person is really there, in front of you, living out a story. Often, movie stars don’t even know the final plot line of the film they are working on until they see the premiere. So much work happens after their job is done that stories can change drastically. This is not so with a live performer. Every night, the same story is lived out. And it is the performer’s job to tell it – without the safety nets of editing and dubbing to fix their mistakes.

When you go to a performance, the artists are providing you a service. You are being reminded of your humanity, challenged to acknowledge why you think, speak, and behave the way you do. You may be entertained during the process but if you talk to any performing artist, they will tell you that they perform to make people feel, not just to entertain. It is that human connection we buy tickets for – and is the reason we should pay our performing artists enough to focus on their art and continually challenge our expectations of the world.