Thanks for inviting me, I can’t make it.
I notice that a lot of my female clients feel the need to justify themselves if they’re asking for something from their organisation. They agonise over what to say, not wanting to look unprofessional and not wanting to share personal details but feeling that they have to a good reason or they’ll be …., well actually, I’m not sure they even know.
Ruchika Tulshyan writes about it in her article, Hidden Bias in Rescheduling Meetings. She needed to reschedule a meeting last minute to look after her sick son. After much agonising she decided divulge this to the person as they too were a working mum and would surely understand. The woman wrote back,
“I’ve worked with men for years and I started noticing they never give a reason for rescheduling. Just: ‘I can’t make it. Does X time work instead?’ So I started doing that professionally and even personally. I just say, ‘thanks for inviting me, I can’t make it.’”
Simple as that.
We seem to have this compulsion that we can’t ask for something unless we share a really good reason. It doesn’t occur to us that most people either don’t care, or are too scared to ask in case it’s something super icky personal.
So for one of my clients who is getting stomach aches from the stress of a lastminutedotcom boss, she doesn’t need to tell him that. Instead she can tell him that she has noticed that the late nights are getting more frequent and that doesn’t work for her and they need to agree an alternative.
Or for another, who after a long illness finds train travel uncomfortable, all she needs to say is that she needs an allocated parking space when she comes into the office or she won’t be able to come in.
Now of course there will be times when you’re challenged and will need to give and explanation. But don’t offer one up, make the other person have to ask for it instead.
Don’t give away your power by justifying a perfectly reasonable request with information that simply isn’t any of their business.
And notice how there is no ‘sorry’ in the title?
PS1: I want to appreciate Ruchika for her courage to call out her own biases, she fully recognises that she can be just as bias against working parents as the next person. The more we share our blindspots with people the more we normalise it and the more inclusive we become as a result.
PS2: Weekly check-in – week 5
√ Shoulder is still a bit sore so added some yoga and barre into the mix this week.
Pink elephants – Still a lot of reflecting this week and I’m learning there is value in reflecting on now wanting to reflect.
57 is the number of weeks in a row I’ve written this letter – and I’m so grateful to past Jude for doing this on in advance!