Don’t Talk Turkey
It’s been widely reported today that a new app called “Just Not Sorry” has been launched in the US. It is targeted at women in business and aims to assist them in writing, primarily by avoiding any drain on their sense of authority which, the app’s developers contend, is caused by using “undermining words” such as “sorry” or “just”.
When users type qualifiers or “soft” phrases such as “I’m no expert, but…”, the app highlights the phrase and warns: “Using this phrase undermines your gravitas and makes you appear unfit for leadership”.
I’ve sometimes read business communications (written by both women and men) which I think would indeed benefit from a tougher approach. For example, I’ve put my red pen through phrases such as “This proposal should ensure…” and pointed out to the writer that “will” rather than “should” is more likely to persuade the reader. Sometimes US businesspeople can be enviably good at the positive aspects of “Talking Turkey” – telling it like it is and being direct when it helps to be so.
But fundamentally this app is talking a different kind of turkey. It’s such a complete turkey that it’s already baloney.
More often than not, showing “negative capability” – the mature ability to show that you are not the Oracle, that you do have stuff to learn from your team, and can assimilate and learn from failure as well as success, without equating this with a lack of confidence – is exactly what you need as a leader, rather than the fantasy quality of pretending to be perfect. How a certain Mr Mourinho could recently have done with displaying some softness and appreciation of dilemma and nuance, in the very public realm of football management!
The fact that women are generally better than men at showing negative capability offers a reason for men to emulate women in their efforts to be better leaders – not the other way round.
Unfit for leadership if you use softer words? Oh please. Pass the turkey.