“Sorry, this might be a stupid question…”
“Sorry, can you repeat that?”
“Sorry, traffic was really bad this morning!”
STOP! What do all three of those sentences have in common?…Think about it…Give up? They’re all unnecessary apologies.
You might be thinking, “But saying ‘Sorry’ is just being polite…right?” Not when you’re overusing it. Saying “Sorry” may be polite when you bump someone’s arm on the street or when you send the wrong files to your supervisor. But over-apologizing has become a pervasive problem in many offices in America.
Studies have shown that women are more guilty of over-apologizing in the workplace, and there are a few reasons why this could be. First of all, women are much more tuned into their emotions and have a broader spectrum for what might be considered offensive. So women tend to believe that there is generally more to be responsible for and will take on those responsibilities, leading to unnecessary apologies. Women are also subject to gender roles that require them from a young age to be more “polite” or “feminine” and this usually leads to the worst thing you can be in a professional setting: submissive.
Being submissive sets low standards. If you’re trying to close a deal with a client and you keep apologizing, the client will wonder why you keep saying “Sorry.” Are you insecure about your company? Do you lack confidence in your product? Is the client coming off as domineering and oppressive? Where has the deal gone wrong? All of these red flags spell disaster for you and your company!
If you apologize for every little thing, you seem weak, vulnerable and even incompetent. Employees are passed over for promotions all the time because they leave a negative and weak impression on managers. You just “Sorried” yourself out of a raise! Sorry.
Undue apologizing could also be a symptom of low self-worth. Analyze why you’re saying “Sorry.”
Did you hurt someone or was someone hurt because of what you did? Did you do something offensive, illegal, or inappropriate? Are you directly at fault for a loss?
Don’t be sorry!
Many people tend to apologize for situations that are simply out of their control and perceive responsibility when there is none to be had. Recently, this snowstorm caused government offices to close, schools to cancel, and just a lousy mess on highways making employees all over the region late or absent from work. Did they conjure the snow? Did they barricade their cars behind snowdrifts? Things happen and there’s no reason to apologize for forces beyond your means.
More often than not, “Sorries” are just another way for us to say “Excuse me” or to express empathy. “Sorry” has become shorthand for what we are truly thinking or feeling. Consider this scenario:
You walk over to your co-workers while they’re discussing their weekends and you hear one person’s car was damaged by a hit and run driver. Instinctively, you blurt, “Sorry!”
Everyone will look at you and think simultaneously: “Was that a confession?!”
Instead, you could say “I’m sorry to hear that!” What a difference! You sound empathetic, caring, and invested in what’s going on in your co-workers’ lives!
By elaborating on your feelings or thoughts or simply substituting “Excuse me” for “Sorry,” you sound stronger and yet still polite. Making statements instead of apologies is the key.
“I’m sorry” becomes “I’m sorry about that.”
“I’m sorry” really means “I haven’t been ignoring your calls: things here are just busy.”
“I’m sorry” is replaced by “I have some ideas about the merger. When can we schedule some time for a meeting?”
Apologizing too much diminishes your power! Your power is the ability to impact others and affect change. Instead, embrace your existence and don’t apologize for it. You have something worthwhile to contribute and there’s no reason to be sorry for that. You are not a doormat to be walked all over: you’re an individual with ideas, feelings, and confidence. Once you embrace your self-worth and stop apologizing for things you cannot control, you stop trivializing your existence and start contributing.