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TSA #009 The dangers of over-apologizing at work

Oct 31, 2022

Apologizing at work have become more of a reflex than a real expression of contrition and overusing them might be holding you back.

Since I moved to Canada (more than 10 years ago) I’ve - unconsciously - learned to apologize for everything. It had become so ingrained in how I communicate, that I didn't know what I was apologizing for.

 

Want Power? Stop Saying 'Sorry' So Much

“Over-apologizing is a common symptom amongst individuals with low self-esteem, fear of conflict and a fear of what others think,” writes empowerment psychologist Jay Rai in Forbes. “This goes hand-in-hand with poor boundaries, perhaps accepting blame for things we didn’t do or couldn’t control. We instantly feel guilty like everything is our fault. When someone is afraid of rejection and criticism, they will go out of their way to be accommodating.”

 

It’s also important to note the gendered implications that come with apologizing at work. Most of us were taught to be nice, to behave our manners, to apologize. And these well attended gendered behavior guidelines can hurt our career advancement. It is something to apologize when we have done something wrong and actually it is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing can hurt your career advancement. Yes, the words you use have an impact on the way people perceive you. Some misinterpret women’s apologies as incompetence.

 

And it's not just an hypothesis. Studies have found that women do apologize more than men because they have a lower threshold for what they consider offensive.  (52 percent for men, 61 percent for women) even when an apology isn’t warranted, according to a 2021 survey from Blind

 

If you find yourself saying, I'm sorry too often, it's time to kick off the apology habits and take your power back. There are simply times where using an apology is not necessary. Some examples could include: “Sorry, I'm late”; “Sorry, I'm busy right now”; “I'm sorry. I can't help you right now”; “Sorry. Can I interrupt?" 

What are you sorry for? Really.

 

 

The Mindset Shift

There are a few simple things that you can implement in order to shift your mindset and start using words that empower yourself. First of all, practice, self-awareness. Notice how many times throughout your day you apologize and write down each time you say the word, sorry.

 

You may be surprised at how many times you use the word without even realizing. Then begin checking your emails to see how often you use the word. Sorry, using the S word too often can undermine your message. Once you have identified how often you use the word, sorry. Then it's time to change your vocabulary.

 

  • Instead of “sorry for the delay,” say “thank you for your patience.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry to bother you,” say “do you have a moment?” or “Is now a good time to chat?”

 

  • Instead of “sorry to hear that,” say “that must be hard for you” or “I can only imagine what you’re going through right now.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry to interrupt” (if you’re sharing ideas in a meeting), say “I’d love to share my ideas with you.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry for messing that up,” say “thank you for pointing that out, I’ll be more careful next time” or “I take full responsibility for that.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry for talking so much,” say “thank you for listening.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry, can we move this meeting?” say “I appreciate your flexibility.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry, I don’t agree,” say “let’s look at it from another angle.”

 

  • Instead of “sorry, I can’t make it,” say “thank you for thinking of me! Maybe next time.”

 

Now, over to you. Do you think that you over-apologize at work? Are you trying to stop? If so, how? And for former over-apologizers, how have you overcome it? Let me know.

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See you next week again.

With your success in mind…Darine 

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