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Author Topic: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?  (Read 858 times)

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Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« on: June 19, 2014, 01:27:48 PM »
I was interested to hear what people think about the recent Pantene Ad which encourages women to not apologize as often.

Here's an overview of it, and the video of the ad is included:
http://time.com/2895799/im-sorry-pantene-shinestrong/

Personally, I don't think this has anything to do with assertiveness, dominance, or managerial status.  Being dominant or assertive has very little to do with what one says or does, and much more to do with one's demeanor, body language, and the degree of responsibility and ownership they take in the well-being of others. 

I'm a man, I'm known as polite and respectful, and I too would be quick to apologize if I interrupted someone in a meeting, like in that ad.  I am honestly struggling to imagine what sort of an ineffective manager or administrator would "look down" on a woman (or man) as being too soft for simply saying sorry.  If anything, this type of behavior on the part of the woman is displaying a strong sense of emotional intelligence and social consideration - a trait many men lack. 

Regardless, how does deciding not to say sorry sort out this issue?

What are your thoughts on this?

Offline Rogue

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 01:44:05 PM »
Unfortunately, being apologetic tends to imply that you've done something wrong. So when someone constantly apologizes, especially for things that aren't their fault, it is seen as a crutch and a bad habit. It also seems to imply that your apologies aren't worth much. Using an example from the article: "I'm sorry waiter, could I please have my water?" and sincerely meaning it not sarcastically comes off as soft and a bit like you are a push over. On the flip side saying: "I've asked for my water multiple times, could I please have my water" without much attitude is less likely to be seen (and the words themselves will sometimes seem to have an attitude without that "sorry" attached.

Things I apologize for: Getting angry when I have a right to be, Getting offended when I have a right to be, bumping into others in a small workspace all the time, being snappy when I've gone through the same thing 20 different times in the same phone call, inconveniencing someone who would be doing their job by helping me.... things like this.

If I don't apologize for these things I'm labeled a bitch. If I do I'm soft and a pushover. If I am assertive in anyway "I'm bossy". If I'm not I'm not managerial material.

There's quite a few double standards that are rarely understood to be so by those in control of the situation (ie: the one making promotions). I'd explain in more detail, but I have work. later.

Offline roulette

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2014, 01:59:03 PM »
Rogue has some good points. Myself, I'm not entirely sure. At least, I'm not entirely sure that it's particularly a gender thing but it could be.

But that's exactly the scenario. If I don't say sorry, even if I have no reason to be, then I feel like I'm perceived as inconsiderate and rude. I feel like saying "sorry" is a way of stating, "I'm not armed, I come in peace!" But it's turned into a gender thing, and while I have talked with other girls who identify with it and are trying to say sorry less, I'm not sure if it's something that actually makes a lot of women feel lesser.

I just read the scenario where a woman is sitting on the floor blocking the exit, she stands and says sorry, the woman who made her move said sorry, and the woman who bumped said sorry. I'm sitting here wondering, though, what is the alternative? To just say nothing? Some of the scenarios in the commercial are great, especially changing "Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?" but on the whole, I feel like sorry is very often just... courtesy. I'm sure a (decent) man would apologize if he bumped into me, or was sitting on the floor blocking my way. I would hardly think him weaker if he did.

But there are some spots where I cringe to say sorry, but I don't know if I can get away with not. I apologize when my message is too long or I've been talking for too long. I apologize when I share my opinion or criticism, even if done in a polite way. It's just... tricky.

It's not the end of the world. It's not a huge deal, I don't think. I don't imagine it matters who agrees or disagrees, because I think the most important thing is that there's a discussion being had, which makes people think about it. That's all.

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2014, 02:01:05 PM »
Interesting points.  Just to share my own experiences, I used to work as a lifeguard, and even some of the old guys would always apologize when they went into the water, because that meant I had to go up onto the stand (even though that was my job).  I never thought they were soft.

And quite honestly, if I was at a restaurant, and the waiter was busy and forgot my water, I would also apologize for asking a third time, since I can empathize with what they are going through in that situation.

Anyone who knows me can tell you I am definitely not a pushover, lol.  This has nothing to do with that at all.  If anything, I think the solution is to embrace these types of gestures of social consideration.  What the work place lacks today is emotional intelligence, an awareness of how other employees feel, rather than this cut and dry, success/failure attitude.

Edit:  But yes, I can definitely see how this would be a gender issue.  Obviously our experiences are very different, and it is interesting to see things from both perspectives.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 02:05:38 PM by Valthazar »

Offline roulette

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2014, 02:09:13 PM »
I almost feel vaguely irritated at the implication that those women are being weak because they're apologizing. I feel like, so women are more polite than men you're going to hold that against them, too? To ask me to stop apologizing is to put me in an uncomfortable position. That's not a behavior I'm sure I want to change, but I don't feel the repercussions as strongly as some others clearly must.

But it's coming off to me as one of those things that, despite it's good nature, is putting the burden on the women. "Stop apologizing; look how weak it makes you look."

One more thing I get to feel insecure about, now that I've been made aware of it. >>

Offline GypsyRose

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2014, 02:12:44 PM »
I think that the writer of the article has some points, as does the commercial.  I will apologize for bumping someone, intruding on someone's personal space as I go by, but I will not apologize for expecting other people to respect me.  The commercial doesn't give enough context to know the circumstances in some cases, and is heavily weighted to assumption.

Sorry is for when I do something wrong, or I inconvenience someone else based on my convenience.

I see nothing wrong with saying 'Sorry' when I interrupt someone, even if what I have to say is pertinent and important.  I would use 'excuse me' instead, but that's probably semantics. 

I do think it's pretty silly to say 'I'm sorry' if someone bumps into me when I'm sitting in a chair, or when someone bumps into me when I'm not standing in a traffic pattern.   That just reinforces the idea that the other person has no responsibility for his/her own actions and I'm not really going to apologize that my existence somehow inconveniences theirs. :-)  It would be nice if they apologized for it, and I'm probably going to think less of them if they don't, whether my thoughts mean anything to them or not.

I'm sure not going to say 'I'm sorry' when I hand someone their portion of a shared responsibility, but I will say 'thank you' and I would consider it impolite for the other person not to do the same when the situation is reversed.  However, if I've just asked someone else to give up their day off so that I can do something important to me when it's otherwise my 'turn', I might apologize for it as well as say a heart-felt thank you. 

To me, it depends on context and intent  ... if an apology is off-hand and/or passive-aggressive, then I'd just as soon not have it said or say it -- and that goes for whatever gender happens to be using it.

To be polite does not have to be regretful, when you're doing what you SHOULD be doing. 

Offline Sabre

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2014, 03:15:44 PM »
This is literally a case of arguing semantics, isn't it?  I think Pantene is just using a peculiar idiom of speech to sell hair products by riding on the feel-good moment evoked by a commercial.  What concerns me is the not-so-subtle way that an empathetic tick is demonized as a sign of weakness when all that does is promote a far more fundamental form of sexism where empathy = womanly = weak while apathy = manly = strong, all under the guise of 'Empowerment, brought to you by Procter & Gamble,' the corporation which owns Pantene and which incidentally has a half-female board of directors.  It's the kind of message you would expect from a highly positioned career business woman about making it in a man's world, which is fair I suppose for all aspiring business women to know, but God help us if social custom becomes an extension of board room meetings and hostile takeovers.

There is such a thing as soft power, and it's very easy to be both powerful and domineering while also having a habit of saying 'I'm sorry' a lot.  It's called the non-apology apology and it's PR101 for every major government official who isn't a violent dictator.

Offline GypsyRose

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2014, 03:31:31 PM »
There is such a thing as soft power, and it's very easy to be both powerful and domineering while also having a habit of saying 'I'm sorry' a lot.  It's called the non-apology apology and it's PR101 for every major government official who isn't a violent dictator.

That's the PC-correct way of saying 'Screw You' dontchaknow?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2014, 03:43:14 PM »
If anything, saying 'I'm sorry' when you have nothing to apologize for kind of dilutes the phrase for when you actually are sorry.  It turns it from a genuine apology into a verbal 'space-filler'.

Offline Rogue

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2014, 05:07:32 PM »
This is unfortunately another form of sexism where women are expected to change their behavior to gain respect. I'm sorry to say Val that you're a rare man in apologizing in the restaurant scenario but I think the problem is that when guys don't say sorry they're just being a guy where as the girl might be perceived as a bitch. Maybe both should be considered negative. Maybe neither should as long as they're both being polite. But it's surprising how perceptions of people change the opinion of people around us. If I wasn't on my phone I'd try to find a relevant video but what would you do? does some interesting videos.

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2014, 06:12:27 PM »
I'm sorry to say Val that you're a rare man in apologizing in the restaurant scenario but I think the problem is that when guys don't say sorry they're just being a guy where as the girl might be perceived as a bitch.

I don't think I'm unique - maybe among men my age, but not as a whole.  When I was talking to my friend about this, she recalled a time in Munich when she accidentally bumped into an older man, and said, "I'm so sorry, sir."  Then he ended up profusely apologizing to her, until they both started laughing, and he said what a sweet woman she was.  Seemed harmless enough.

Offline meikle

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2014, 09:00:09 PM »
"Apologies are less expected from managers and males than from subordinates and females, and the less expected they are, the greater their effectiveness."  Study shows that women are expected to apologize and because they are expected to apologize, their apologies are treated less seriously in the work place.  Men are not expected to apologize, and as such find their apologies treated as more significant.

http://www.academia.edu/1183320/Do_you_really_expect_me_to_apologize_The_Impact_of_Status_and_Gender_on_the_Effectiveness_of_Apology_at_Work

Offline Oniya

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2014, 09:04:37 PM »
Kinda what I said, only done up with fancy research.  ;)

Offline Rogue

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2014, 10:07:48 PM »
Oni and Meikle hit it on the head. Also something I'm curious about: Are women more likely to be told they apologize too much as opposed to an equally apologetic male?

Offline Remiel

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2014, 10:17:46 PM »
I wonder whether some cultural dynamic is at play here as well.  Terry Pratchett, a British author, once said: "The fundamental difference between the British and Americans is this: an Englishman says, 'I do not understand what he is saying.  What is wrong with me?'  An American, on the other hand, says, "I do not understand what he is saying.  What is wrong with him?' "

I disagree with the notion that apologizing is a sign of weakness or submission.   When I get a meal from a drive-through fast food restaurant, I prefer not to have any ice in my drink.  I will make a point of mentioning this--"Small Dr. Pepper, no ice in that please."   Inevitably, sooner or later I will receive a drink filled to the brim with ice.  I have found, through experience, that my request is much more well-received if I begin it with "I'm really sorry, but could I have this with no ice?"  Even though the mistake was the employee's, not mine, I like to apologize anyway.  I don't care whose fault the mistake was; I just want my drink without ice.   Saying something along the lines of "hey, jackass, you got my order wrong" is likely to, human nature being what it is, result in something nasty happening to my food.

Similarly, in my years in tech support, I've learned that, when asking the caller a rudimentary but nevertheless necessary question (you'd be surprised at how many so-called tech professionals forget to plug something in, or turn it on) if I preface it with, "I have a really stupid question, but is the device powered on?"  or "I have a stupid question.  Did you try rebooting the equipment?"  I've found that  I get less hostility and more cooperation than if I were to adopt a more confrontational tone.  I know it's not a stupid question, but I'm allowing my caller to save face at my expense.  It doesn't bother me, because I'm getting the information I want.

So I'm inclined to agree with Valthazar here.  I think the question we should be asking is not "are women apologizing too much?" but rather "why don't men apologize more?"

Offline roulette

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2014, 10:21:12 PM »
Remiel, everything you just said kinda really makes me happy. Especially the ending.

I think Sorry is a word like Love. I love these shoes. I love Elliquiy. I love my mother. We all throw love around a lot.

That doesn't make it any less meaningful when we tell someone we love them sincerely. There's a difference between a courtesy apology and a real apology.

Offline Rogue

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2014, 10:22:58 PM »
Remi, you're the best. And I agree with you. Unfortunately that's not a commonly held perception in the US.... Or at least one that's discussed often enough.

Offline meikle

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2014, 10:33:31 PM »
That doesn't make it any less meaningful when we tell someone we love them sincerely. There's a difference between a courtesy apology and a real apology.

The article I linked discusses actual apologies (not using 'sorry' as a pleasantry but apologizing for an offense) and one of the conclusions they draw is that the expectation that women will apologize leads to people assuming that their apologies are not sincere (and that is why their apologies are less likely to be taken seriously.)

Offline roulette

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2014, 10:35:08 PM »
Right. I wasn't really speaking against that, but against the sentiment (not sure if anybody actually meant this, though) that the more we DO apologize for little, pointless things, the less meaning a sincere apology has.

Offline Rogue

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2014, 10:37:21 PM »
Just because we understand that, doesn't mean others do.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2014, 10:37:45 PM »
Oni and Meikle hit it on the head. Also something I'm curious about: Are women more likely to be told they apologize too much as opposed to an equally apologetic male?

I think there's a perception that a guy who is saying "sorry" and excusing himself a lot, over things that are not seen as having major importance, is making himself  a weak pushover (or showing himself as such). Men are simply not supposed to scrape their feet and blame themselves like that, and are less adept than many women at "making it look good", making it pass. That's a fairly ingrained perception I think, but I'm not sure how strong it is in America these days.

Also, I think it's true that excuses from high-ranking men - if it's about something that is actually seen to matter, and something they have a "right" to speak up about, as in not being patronizing - often carry more weight than excuses and apologies from women.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 10:39:51 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline roulette

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2014, 10:39:23 PM »
I haven't got a clue what people think about it. I guess someone could think that because I apologize for them bumping into me, I don't mean my apology when I apologize for losing my temper or being unkind or something. That just seems awfully... strange?

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2014, 11:08:09 PM »
A lot of it likely has to do with one's body language when apologizing.  For example, I can relate with Remiel's example about getting a drink with ice, when I specifically requested one without ice. 

In that situation, I wouldn't say sorry feeling apologetic, remorseful, and in a sad tone of voice.  But rather, I would say it with a friendly tone of voice, with a smile, and then ask for my drink without ice.  It shows empathy and compassion for how busy things must be for the employees.

It's rather unfortunate if there are men (or women) who think such gestures show weakness. 

Saying sorry does show weakness, if you say it feeling like it is a weakness.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2014, 12:24:24 AM »
I do not like to apologize when I have done nothing wrong. It grates my nerves and this is likely because I spend 40 hours a week saying "I am sorry" to customers for something I did not do. I am of the belief that the phrase "I am sorry" has lost all of it's meaning because we say it so much without meaning it. I know that, for me at least, it has become so ingrained into my mind that I find myself apologizing any time anyone starts complaining to me. And I know that I usually roll my eyes whenever someone says "I am sorry to yell at you..." because I know they dont mean the apology. They are just trying to convince themselves it is okay to be an asshole to someone undeserving of their anger.

Offline roulette

Re: Pantene Ad - Women Apologizing Too Much?
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2014, 02:48:45 AM »
Men are from Mars
Women are from Canada