Right now, starting today, let’s cut these seven things from our vocabularies, ladies.
1. “Don’t Be Judgey.”
To judge is human. It’s how we learn about our world and discern right from wrong, effective from misguided, fact from fiction. To form an opinion requires judgment. At some point it seemed to become part of the feminine credo that we not judge any ideas as better than others. It makes it difficult as a woman to take a firm stand on an issue without facing character assassination.
I think what we’re really trying to capture is the notion that we shouldn’t make unfair judgments or ascribe ill motives toward people who make choices that are different from our own.
Cool. Let’s re-frame that to “Don’t be an asshole.”
2. “You have to do what’s best for you.”
Yes, you do, but not at the expense of being a decent human. It’s arguably good for women to hear this since we seem to struggle with putting others’ needs ahead of our own. And yet, it’s easy to think of examples of people hiding behind this statement to justify unkind or unwise behavior, with throngs of enabling girlfriends propping them up. Real friends will tell you when you’re screwing up, rather than validating all.
3. “I’m sorry.”
Of course there’s a time and place for apologies, but it’s become an unhealthy addiction, as this provocative recent Pantene ad showcases:
Let’s stop apologizing for the fact that we occupy space and breathe oxygen.
4. “She’s too extreme.”
Dismissing a perspective on the grounds that it’s extreme is not only an intellectual copout, but a message to other women that they must conform to social norms or risk rejection. Besides, what’s extreme in one time and place is normal in another. Judge ideas on their merit, not their position relative to the societal mean.
5. Saying to young girls: “Aren’t you pretty!”
Research shows that while people speak to young boys about their interests, comments to young girls center around physical appearance. We must do a better job asking young girls about the things on their minds and the ways they spend their time. Consider saying something like:
• “What are your favorite books?”
• “You look like someone who likes to think a lot. What do you like to think about?”
• “What do you like to do in those shoes? Run? Skip? Jump? Show me!”
You get the idea. Run with that concept and empower young women!
6. “Sorry you’re depressed. Try to be grateful for what you have/ just exercise/ carpe diem.”
If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you know it’s not as simple as willing yourself out of it. In fact, these statements can make the listener feel worse because you’re effectively telling them they shouldn’t feel the way they do or aren’t working hard enough to fix it.
Depression is a mental illness that can be helped by professional treatment. It’s awesome that you were able to perk up by going for a run the day your coworker annoyed you, but please don’t project that experience onto a person who has struggled to get out of bed for months.
7. “I know exactly how you feel.”
The intentions are pure—to express empathy—but the fact is everyone’s situation, and individual response, is unique. Even if your friend just had a miscarriage and you had a miscarriage last year, you don’t know exactly how she feels.