It is no secret how much I despise the fact that women apologize all over themselves all of the time. The really sad part is that I am one of the biggest offenders. I always thought that saying “sorry” proved that I was polite and courteous. Unfortunately, saying “sorry” when I haven’t done anything wrong does nothing more than challenge people’s respect for me. What I mean is that if I say “sorry” every two minutes, then people are going to assume I have something to be sorry about.
A place that I constantly catch myself saying sorry when I shouldn’t is at the grocery. Someone will run into me and I will say, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t do anything wrong! Why am I apologizing?? Or, I’ll get to the end of an aisle first and turn down the next before someone else does and I’ll say “sorry”. “Excuse me” would have been a much better and more accurate statement but I apologize instead. Like, almost every time. Its maddening, especially when it bothers me so much and I’m aware enough to catch myself AFTER I’ve already said it.
We say “sorry” for all of the right reasons. We don’t want to appear to be mean, overbearing, or directive. We don’t want to develop a reputation for being aggressive and non-appreciative. So, we overcompensate by apologizing for everything to our colleagues, employees, friends, and family.
You have heard me preach about this before and the damage that over apologizing does to the personal value that we project and present to others. I did a blog post on apologies and qualifiers several months ago so I’m not going to spend time on how using them impacts the level of confidence that people have in us. Instead I’m going to give you a couple of words to use in place of “I’m sorry.” The next time you feel the urge to apologize for something when you haven’t done anything wrong, say “Thank you” instead.
Here are some common scenarios that I find myself apologizing unnecessarily and the way in which to correct the issue.
- Old way: I’m really sorry but I need to reschedule our meeting.
- New way: Thank you for your willingness to accommodate my change in schedule.
- Old way: Sorry I’m late.
- New way: Thank you for waiting on me.
- Old way: I’m sorry for the delay.
- New way: Thank you for your patience.
- Old way: I apologize for not remembering your name.
- New way: Thank you for reminding me of your name.
- Old way: I’m so sorry to dump this on you.
- New way: Thank you for agreeing to take care of this.
- Old way: I’m sorry I can’t attend.
- New way: Thank you for the invitation but I’m not available to attend.
Eliminating “I’m sorry” from your conversation when you haven’t done anything wrong in no way makes you a mean person. Shifting your language from “I’m sorry” to “Thank you” still allows you to be nice but it also allows you to lead with confidence and elegance.
So, the next time you go to say “I’m sorry”, or even worse when you start to write it in an email (even worse because you have a chance to catch yourself before you ever hit send), ask yourself if you really have something to be sorry about. If the answer is yes, then proceed. But, if the answer is no, choose a more appropriate phrase, like “Thank you”, for the situation. You will come out still being the nice guy and with your self-respect intact as well.