- Posted by Janet Zaretsky
- On August 7, 2017
- 0 Comments
My pet peeve is when people apologize for EVERYTHING! This is especially annoying when it is women. When you apologize all the time, reflexively, you are perceived (and likely experience yourself) as weak. In fact, when I experience a woman apologizing 99% of the time for nothing worthy of an apology, I say to her “No need to apologize”. Since my passion is altering the conversation of women in the world of work and ending the gender gap both in pay and influence in my lifetime intervening in this apology habit is one step. We, as women, cannot possibly earn the respect, the power and the income equally when we position ourselves small, intrusive and apologetic.
We need to have these conversations and consistently interrupt habits that do not serve us. When I coach executives to small business owners, I deal with this all the time and coach them to pay attention to and alter their habits in this area. It makes a big difference.
I was reading an article about this very subject. In Fast Company’s article, Four Times You Shouldn’t Apologize (Including When It’s Your Fault), the author’s subtitle says it all “You can show your emotional intelligence by finding solutions, not yet another “I’m sorry.”’
The problem is that we are conditioned to say “I’m sorry” from childhood and most of us haven’t take the time or the energy to examine when that phrase actually diminishes ourselves, our power and our influence. The author, Judith Humphrey, says “The risk in saying “sorry” too much is that apologies carry baggage that can undermine others’ confidence in you. It’s often the verbal equivalent of a hangdog face, downcast eyes, or slouching shoulders. Why put yourself down?” The opportunity is to start paying attention to when to say it and what to say instead.
Consider what you would think if the CEO of your company said “Sorry, I have something to say” before she/he spoke or “Sorry, I wasn’t finished” when someone interrupted them—wouldn’t you lose confidence in her/him? What if they said “Sorry, but we are downsizing”, would that lessen the blow or would it simply seem insincere and perhaps irritating. If you want to say something, in a meeting, for example, simply say it. When you say something without preceding it with a disqualifier apology, what you say is actually heard differently. You sound like an authority and worth listening to. In the other situation, about delivering bad news, I realize most people don’t like to deliver bad news, but adding an apology actually does not change the news and can be received as annoying. In other words, you want to pay attention to what you are saying and how it might be received.
As this article points out, there are times when you made a mistake or did something that you do need to be responsible for. By all means, you should always take responsibility, when it is yours to take. However, simply apologizing is often insufficient for taking responsibility. Often what happens is you apologize in the place of actually being responsible. To be responsible, try not apologizing, but actually stating what you did not do, and what you are going to do about it and get the alignment of the person to whom you failed to keep your agreement about your solution. They will be more satisfied as they will get what they want. Think about times when someone promised you something and did not do it but apologized. Contrasting that, think about a time when someone did not do what they promised and they came to you and told you and said what they were going to do to make up for their failure to keep that promise. Which situation left you more satisfied? When you are the offender (the one that did not keep the promise in this example), aren’t you more satisfied, as well, when you don’t leave someone simply disappointed?
If you started paying attention to your (and other people’s) reflexive apologetic nature and started interrupting it, you will be more powerful for yourself as well as others. Imagine a world where we all own our power and I’m sorry is reserved for very specific and rare occasions. I am on a mission to have that happen. Won’t you join me? Reclaim your power and influence and help others to do the same.