I Spent A Week Trying To Be A More Assertive Woman In The Workplace ~ Farrah Penn

Hi, I’m Farrah, and I’m consistently guilty of using “woman in a meeting” language in both the workplace and my personal life. I suffer from the chronic need to please people.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

At it’s core, “woman in a meeting” language is intentionally using overenthusiastic sentences and softer words in order to prevent coming off as abrasive. Many women (including myself) constantly apologize, use exclamation points, or preface points they’d like to make with “I think,” or “I just.”

After reading this and recognizing that many strong women throughout history were unapologetically themselves without fear of being called “abrasive” or a “bitch,” I decided I would spend a week trying to eliminate this type of language from the way I speak.

When I started looking for my overuse of soft language… sadly, it wasn’t too hard to find:

When I started looking for my overuse of soft language... sadly, it wasn't too hard to find:

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

For five days, I followed these rules, which eliminated common phrases from my “soft language” vocabulary.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

There were tons of challenges that came up during this entire process. My main concern was coming off as a jerk. In some instances, it took me A LOT longer to compose a very direct email than it would have if I was using my bubbly! excited! tone!. And I overanalyzed EVERYTHING.

Scenario 1: Replying to a co-worker in NYC about a project.

Scenario 1: Replying to a co-worker in NYC about a project.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

I haven’t been to BuzzFeed’s NYC office, so I don’t know any of the staff except those I’ve interacted with over email and Slack — the instant messaging system we use. I was nervous about coming off cold in my email, which is why it took me maybe ten minutes to write on top of reading over it dozens of times. I cringed when I sent it. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t excited about the post anymore.

Despite my worrying, Lincoln really didn’t seem phased by my lack of enthusiastic exclamations. Also, I realized that although I wanted to add in an apology, it wasn’t needed. Why was I apologizing on behalf of my draft? That’s what drafts are FOR.
But the tone in his response showed the same enthusiasm for our project, which meant I was stressing over this one email for NOTHING.

Scenario 2: My boss let me know we were getting lunch today.

Scenario 2: My boss let me know we were getting lunch today.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

My response was a faster-than-normal reply for me, especially since the rules cut off the time I would spend looking for an emoji to send. I saved some time by not worrying about making myself seem happy and upbeat.

BUT her response made me overanalyze my lack of enthusiasm. I always want to come off as a positive team player, and forgoing my excessive use of exclamation marks made my tone seem sarcastic and ungrateful. Was she mad? Did she think I was being ungrateful? Did she think I was being rude or sarcastic? OR A JERK?

She didn’t seem to think so, because the rest of the day carried on as normal. Looking back, it’s a funny how anxious I became over — literally — one exclamation mark.

Scenario 3: Receiving feedback from my editors about a post I was working on.

Scenario 3: Receiving feedback from my editors about a post I was working on.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

The way I acknowledge feedback has always been super important to me. In the past, I’ve made sure to be EXTREMELY enthusiastic, using tons! of! exclamation! marks! to prove that I’m not aggressively put off by any changes. I never want my editor to think, is she mad because I’m giving her this feedback? Does she even care?

There were some instances throughout these 5 days where it took me about ten minutes to gather the courage to send people messages.

When I look back at what I wanted to say — and have said on numerous occasions as replies to edits — I’m kind of annoyed with myself. Why do I need to use that many exclamation marks? And smiley faces? Tone is really important when communicating through instant messaging, but what I wanted to say feels like overdoing it. Which means I HAVE overdone it before.

Scenario 4: Asking a co-worker to collab for the first time.

Scenario 4: Asking a co-worker to collab for the first time.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

I haven’t collabed with Crystal on a project before, and I DEFINITELY would have added “if you’re not too busy!” to the end of this message on a normal day. But that would have meant I was providing her with an excuse, and my goal was to be more assertive. 

It took her a while to reply, which made me think: omg she definitely thinks I’m not excited for this. I should have given her an excuse in case she wanted to let me down easy! But her reply was genuinely enthusiastic. Even if she had been too busy, I shouldn’t have felt the need to provide an excuse.

Scenario 5: Replying to a co-worker’s question.

Scenario 5: Replying to a co-worker's question.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

My conscious attempt to NOT use the exclamation marks made me realize (again) how much I use them on an everyday basis. But I felt like my use of exclamations would have expressed a tone that resembled: oh don’t worry about it, it’s no trouble to get this quick link for you.

Nina was only looking for a link, but I was the one worrying how my tone was coming across through our exchange. In the end, I realized that responding in a direct manner to a forthright question did not automatically make me a jerk.

Scenario 6: Collaborating on a project with my co-workers.

Scenario 6: Collaborating on a project with my co-workers.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed

At first I was very self-conscious of not being able to express my enthusiasm in this Slack brainstorm with my co-workers, but it actually ended up getting easier and easier. This interaction happened on the fourth day, and I discovered I was gaining more confidence being assertive. 

Forgoing phrases like “I feel like” and “maybe” during brainstorms like this one was a challenge. I wasn’t sure why I needed to soften my tone when I was interjecting an idea. It was a wake up call that made me realize I REALLY needed to cut back on that type of language.

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed
  • There are times when being direct comes in handy, and it’s possible for me to be direct without sounding like a jerk.
  • Not EVERY reply needs to have an exclamation mark, because that’s annoying, but I like having my voice.
  • Look, I like using emojis. Sometimes when words fail, emojis speak. There are some instances were it’s better to forgo them, but I’m not going to completely stop using them. 
  • I don’t have to be afraid of being assertive about my opinions, especially during edits. Softening my feedback with “maybe” and “I feel like” and “I’m wondering” can come across as if I’m unsure of myself, and I’m not!
  • Looking back, all my unnecessary hahas and lols were pretty irritating. I’m going to try and stop that habit. Because, really, nothing is that funny all the time. 
  • This experiment actually showed me that, overall, I saved a lot of time typing direct responses — time that I probably would have normally spent of second-guessing my ~soft~ sentences and searching for emojis.
  • I WILL stop unnecessarily apologizing for things I don’t need to apologize for. 

I wish I could say I’m now an assertive badass after my 5-day experiment, but I’m not. I like having my own voice, and when I’m excited about something I want to be able to express that. But this experiment did teach me that I don’t have to be afraid of coming across as rude when, in reality, I’m being direct.


5 Hard Truths for Every Black Woman Creative ~ Dee Rene

Being a creative is equal parts struggle and triumph. With a dash of doubt mixed between layers of relentless pursuit of your dreams. But although this is an incredible journey, it’s not one that you should enter into without understanding the realities to come.
It’s not all struggle and it’s for sure not all glamour. Go into this life prepared by embracing a few hard to swallow truths. 

There’s no such thing as an overnight success

Viola Davis and Regina King accepted their awards and it seemed to most of America that maybe they appeared out of no where. What most don’t realize is that “out of nowhere” was years and years of taking roles that no one else wanted, roles that no one else noticed, and working relentlessly to improve. Those “big breaks” are culminations of smaller breaks that opened up through persistence and many big loses too. As a creative, it will seem that you “should” be to the epitome of your success by now. Don’t get lost in the “shoulds” of life and beat yourself down for not reaching the bar yet. The secret to overnight success is tot keep going every day, every night. Get feedback. Improve. Adjust. But never stop. Just keep going. 

You don’t need to get a “real job” but struggle doesn’t have to be part of your story 

Broke is not a good color on you. There’s nothing noble about being a creative who can’t feed themselves. Most people avoid a “real job” not in their creative field because it might drain their soul or take hours away from their creative project. However, you don’t need to be a martyr to your art in order to prove how dedicated you really are to the project. Instead you need to turn off the tunnel vision and broaden the scope of your talent. A true creative can make a Monet out of a mud hill. Use your resources to make money, still using some of your talent, so that you can fuel and fund your main project. If you’re an artist who wants to sell paintings that’s great, but if that’s not paying the bills right now what else can you do? Can you design tattoos? Logos? Don’t take your eyes off your final goal but take a moment to look around and decide where there’s money you may be missing.

Plot twist: Your friends are often not your biggest supporters 

When I first started writing, I expected my friends to share my writing world-wide and to stand at the gates of my blog with pom-poms. Much to my surprise that wasn’t the case with some of my closest friends. As a creative, your work becomes part of your heart and it can hurt when friends don’t go hard for you. Friends support you as a person but some of your closest friends may not give two clicks about your work in the way that you THINK they should. Some of your friends may support the work quietly with congratulations and a thoughtful text. Other’s may not. Don’t hang your head and wonder if you work is all that great if your friends don’t turn into fans. Understand that close friends may not be your biggest fan and that is not indicative of your worth as a creative or even of your friendship. Friends play different roles and supporting you as a whole person may not always mean pouring 100% support in every area of your life. The same way that you have friends who are great supporting relationship issues but horrible at providing career advice. Be grateful for whatever way they do support and don’t get so focused on who isn’t supporting that you forget to be grateful for those that do. 

It starts and ends with you 

There’s no Superman to come rescue you Louise Lane. Along this path there will be mentors, peers, fans and supporters to help connect you to the right people to get to your big break. However, the thing that will get you to success – the work – starts and ends with you. People who succeed weren’t just born talented. Talent doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to do the work. If you aren’t willing to write, work with an editor and accept feedback, how will you sell a book? If you aren’t willing to research other artist and learn technique, how will you create the best art possible? Masters are students first. 

The success of your creative venture rests in your willingness to work, edit, start again, and try. No one can do it for you. It starts and ends with you. 

Living your truth will change your life 

There are a million ways to be a singer other than being Beyonce. Find an outlet for your creative roles. You were born a creative for a reason and no matter what anyone says, if it makes your heart smile, then you keep creating. Too many artists are locked up in cubicle prisons doodling masterpieces on meeting notes. They gave up long ago because they never made it to a gallery. Don’t be that person. Even if you’re an artist for 3 hours a day in your living room or selling small paintings on Instagram, do not let the creative part of you die. Do not choke the life out of your creative spirit because someone or something told you that it was a silly dream. Living your truth – that you are a creative – will change your life. Set your soul free and feed it the art, music, writing and whatever else it needs to thrive. 

A creative is a life calling. Your moment will come if you keep going, keep improving, and don’t let the doubts take you over. Remember there’s no overnight success, you don’t have to go broke and it all starts and ends with the work you put into this life. This is your calling. Your moment will come. Rejoice with the people that support you and forget the rest. It’s time to let this change your life and live completely in your truth. 

Welcome to life as a creative.


Thankful Thursday: Happiness Leads to Success?

Dr. Christine Carter offers an interesting lesson on the relationship between happiness and success. In the video she states that happiness can lead to success but that success does not always lead to happiness.

“So when we focus on the skills that they need to lead happy and meaningful lives they’ll tend to have lives that are full of lots of different types of positive emotions and those positive emotions are gonna really contribute to their success. When we are happy we tend to be more creative, we’re better problem solvers, we’re more resilient, these are the things that lead us to success in life. So when we focus on happiness for our kids, what is more likely to happen is that they will fulfill their potential and that is success.”

TED Talk Tuesday: Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

I know I have to work on my grit. Follow through is not easy for anyone, especially in this fast-paced culture. In this interesting talk, Dr. Lee Duckworth talks about the significance of “Grit” in education and life. Sticking with something longterm is not easy in our modern culture, it is so easy to find something new or shift to something easier. Long term commitment is not encouraged, but Dr. Lee Duckworth explores its role in success both in school and life.


Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

” What I do know is that talent doesn’t make you gritty. Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.