Here’s a question for you: How many times a day do you find yourself saying, “I’m sorry.” If you took the time to count, I’d wager that many of you are saying those two words more often than you think.
Here’s my take on this – STOP IT!
I’m not saying you should abdicate responsibility when you do something wrong. What I am saying is that if you find yourself apologizing all day, every day, it’s time to evaluate why you do this and put a stop to it.
In my 27 years of coaching, I’ve noticed that this phenomenon is far more common with women. Why do women apologize for things when they didn’t do anything wrong? In many cases it’s because they are highly empathetic. Women often anticipate how others may feel or react and try to preemptively mitigate any damage with an “I’m sorry.”
The reality of life is that not every conversation with friends, family, or co-workers is going to be easy. You will need to have tough conversations to create and live the life you want. It’s so much easier to have these tough conversations when you release the burden of anticipating how others will react to what you are saying. Everyone is responsible for his/her own reactions and emotions. You’re not responsible for how the other person is going to react to the message that you are delivering!
I had an assistant for many years who had a habit of starting off statements with an apology. When she needed my assistance, she would say things like, “I’m sorry. Can I have five minutes of your time?” However, as our relationship progressed, I refused to let her apologize. I worked with her on skipping over the “I’m sorry to interrupt you,” or “I’m sorry, I hate to bother you,” and cut to the chase. There’s nothing wrong with simply saying “I have an issue that needs your attention. Please let me know when you have five minutes today to discuss this.”
Here is a quick and actionable tip you can use if you find yourself struggling with this. Turn that apology into a thank you. Instead of “I’m so sorry, I can’t make that work,” say “Thank you for thinking of me. I’m not going to be able to make that work.” Starting with a “thank you” allows the conversation to stay on equal footing. When you are constantly apologizing, it can make you appear less confident and competent.
Even if you’re late to a meeting, where it is appropriate to apologize for keeping someone waiting, you can say, “Thank you for waiting. I didn’t mean to be rude by being late. I was caught in traffic.”
So the next time “I’m sorry” is at the tip of your tongue, pause to evaluate whether an apology is needed. If not, change it into a thank you, and then go about your day knowing that you’re communicating with confidence.
What situations make you want to apologize?
Please comment and let me know.