Have you ever noticed the person who over – apologizes? And does it cause you to look at the person a bit differently?
Early this year, I met with a C-suite executive who apologized at least four times throughout the course of our meeting that the receptionist was not on hand to greet me when I arrived.
No worries. No harm, no foul. A clearly posted sign at the reception desk gave me specific instructions to call any one of five employees at their extensions. I reached the second employee and within a minute, the executive arrived to greet me and usher me in.
One “I’m sorry” would have been fine and it was actually unwarranted as clear instructions were provided.
When we apologize excessively and add on reasons or excuses, it can have the opposite effect of our original intention of basic, genuine politeness and respect. For one, it quickly gets annoying to the listener and the humility behind the first apology is lost. Gone!
Yet more importantly, saying “I’m sorry” repeatedly inadvertently shifts the conversation away from the bigger topic being discussed and can cast a poor image of the person doing the apology in revealing insecurity, decreased confidence/self-esteem, or a need for approval/reassurance.
“It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”
~ P.G. Wodehouse
Women apologize at a much greater rate than their male colleagues. If you’re growing in your career, overapology coupled with excuses can be a CLM (Career Limiting Move) as you’re not seen as a strong leader and leadership requires backbone and conviction.
Even saying “I’m sorry” once can send the wrong message. Hillary Clinton became the first woman in history to run for president and the first person in history to say “I’m sorry” in a presidential concession speech. Whatever your politics, women need strong women role models and I clearly remember my reaction. Instantly, my opinion and respect of Clinton dropped when she uttered those two little words. I found her weak and my heart sank for empowered women across our nation. If you heard Clinton’s concession speech, do you recall your reaction? Pause here a moment and consider how her “I’m sorry” may have affected your opinion of her.
I’m sorry, but women really need to stop apologizing. (We also need to give up filler words that, like, diminish our professionalism, you know?) I hear apology all the time and everywhere from the waitress in the restaurant who drops a spoon – to clients on mental toughness coaching calls who don’t complete their homework – to women leaders on stage presenting their company report when they slip on a word. I’m certainly guilty of apologizing when I don’t need to. Sorry.
Embrace Your Mistakes Beyond mis/overuse as a social politeness, apology comes with the price of holding us back. It’s our tendency as professional women to overthink and overprepare. We’re afraid of making mistakes and appearing incompetent. Often this keeps us from trying new things and stretching ourselves.
We certainly hear that failure is the stepping stone to success, yet deep inside, many of us don’t believe it. Instead we strive to avoid failure, pain. We berate ourselves for making a mistake and thus our ultimate success remains elusive. Success is nearly impossible without failure. The lessons and growth are in our mistakes. Mistakes should not be viewed as punishable wrong doings that require an apology. Make mistakes, lots of them, and don’t apologize for them. Choose instead to recognize and honor your learning and growth.
Kick the Habit Saying “I’m sorry” is a behavioral habit that can be easily changed. In the corporate world, women executives have taken it to task to stomp out apology using a “Sorry Jar,” a $1 penalty each time they say the word.
To change this limiting habit for yourself, start to build an awareness of each time you say those words, “I’m sorry.” Enlist colleagues, family, and friends to call it out to you. Are there certain situations or triggers that make you automatically want to apologize? Examine them, understand them, and replace your apology with an accurate statement of the point you wish to make.
Rule of Thumb: Apologize ONCE, if at all, then forget it and move on.
A s a partner, speaker and coach with Mental Toughness University, Bobbi – Jo Brighton , CST, LCI is the developer of Women’s Mental Toughness®, administered by Boldful.Life, which dispel s confusion and address is the key issues that limit women’s workplace performance and inhibit women from advancing in their careers and becoming effective, influential leaders.