By: Anja Uitdehaag
American actress Doris Roberts once said:
“I think women are taught to ask permission about everything. We don’t realize that we are entitled and we do have a say in our lives.”
The behavior of seeking permission from others is ingrained in us from an early age. In childhood we are taught that we need to ask permission from someone else to do certain things. As a child this is appropriate, but as we grow up many of us hold onto that behavior and it does us more harm than good.
It is a common notion that men do not ask for permission. They ask forgiveness.
While we’re asking to be allowed to do something, our male colleagues may already be doing it.
It seems that women ask permission more out of habit than from really needing someone to give them the green light. It is a variation of asking questions to play it safe – but potentially more self-defeating.
By seeking permission before acting, you are less likely to be accused of making mistakes but you are also less likely to be viewed as a confident risk-taker.
Asking permission lowers your status to that of a child, i.e. someone who always needs to be afforded permission.
You also set yourself up to hear “no”.
For those women who are striving for flexibility to achieve for example a desired work/life balance, constantly asking permission can be a significant barrier to attaining it.
Rather than ask permission, you should inform others of your plans (“I just wanted to let you know I’ll be working from home tomorrow. I’ve got a delivery coming.”)
By informing others you show respect for their need to know, but without your action being contingent upon their approval.
If people have a problem with what you’re saying, they’ll let you know. You can then negotiate from a position of greater strength.
Constant permission seeking behaviors may limit your ability to achieve goals, build the career you want and live your life the way you want.
Don’t limit yourself. Stop effectively building your own career barriers.
Take the ball and run with it. Your boss will be grateful.
A challenge for you:
“Ask for forgiveness, not permission” is an adage that reminds us that sometimes it is better to trust your instincts and judgment and take risks rather than seek the approval of someone else before taking action.
Do you dare to take a risk on something that you truly believe in even if it puts you out on a limb?
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