Stop Saying “I’m Sorry”

im-sorry-catHave you ever noticed how high-powered, successful CEO-type professionals don’t walk around saying they’re sorry all the time? Imagine how that would look … Donald Trump saying “sorry” a million times on a daily basis. “I am sooo sooo sorry to fire you. I mean it. So sorry. Are you OK? {Squishy, concerned affect}.

Well, that’s how alot of smart women walk around. They apologizge for everything. They inadvertently grab your coffee at the Starbucks. “I’m so sorry.”  The 5-year-old running through the door bumps into them on the way out. “I am sorry!” they repeat over and over again….

Yesterday, I got my eyebrows waxed by Stephanie (not her real name). I asked her to please not wax the top of my brows (because they get “zitty”). She agreed and then we got to talking. We were laughing and gabbing. She got distracted.  Stephanie then put wax on top of my brows, just as I had asked her not to. You could have thought she had just knocked over Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and started the great Chicago fire.

“I am soooo sorry. I can’t believe I did that. I feel terrible. Oh my God! I am soo sorry,” her poor voice  squeaked. She then proceeded to sweetly say she was sorry at least eight times. I finally had to stop her. “Stephanie, please don’t say you are sorry anymore. I accept your apology and it is no big deal.”

My guess is Stephanie has some “Give-Away-Girl” type of challengees. This means she is probably a very kind, compassionate caring person, who probably gives people too much power to make her feel bad in her life. In other words, she’s probably a little codependant.

Here are three good reasons to save your apologies for important moments.

1. It tells your brain and everyone else you are a sorry person.

Brains that hear” I AM SORRY!” over and over only recognize that “YOU ARE SORRY!” Why go there?

2. Narcissistic people are quick to pick up on the weak and vulnerable. 

They (narcissists) think people who apologize excessively are weak. It’s like a heat seeking missile. Would Donald Trump hire an over-apologizer? No way. Do you think Madonna says she’s sorry too much? Naaah…

3.  Saying it all the time is a good way to give your power away.

It just does. Save your apologies for big stuff. An article by Shawn Johnson in the USA Today asserts that research shows women apologize a ton more than men do:

How to avoid being a “Give Away Girl” when you apologize

  • Be sincere.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep you head up, body language strong and when you are wrong promptly admit it.
  • Use your apologies wisely and use empowering words like “I apologize,” or “I regret that decision.”
  • Stop apologizing for dumb things, like asking for water. Say “excuse me ” instead.
  • Pay attention to powerful people whom you admire. How do they convey regrets?

In Stephanie’s case, a sincere, “I apologize Cherilynn. I inadvertently did exactly what you asked me not to do because I was distracted,” would have been sufficient.

CHALLENGE: Try to go a whole day without saying “I am sorry.” For some compassionate, smart, caring women, that can be quite a challenge! Let me know how you do.

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One thought on “Stop Saying “I’m Sorry”

  1. Your latest column raised my awareness about using “I’m sorry” too much. It’s not necessary as much as we may think. Take my 7 year old … he’s a habitual offender who uses “empty sorries” daily.

    But note that I realized this was a learned behavior after I heard his teacher repeatedly use it to persuade children to cooperate with her instructions. Over and over and over again in a 20 minute span of time. I’ve never heard seen such a communication style.

    I know how hard it is to break habits, even ones that seem harmless like this one … saying you’re sorry too much. But other people are taking cues from you and there are so many words to choose instead.

    In my work setting, I like to use “regret” instead. Regrets for overlooking you on the email … Regrets … a file was left off the package. Please refer to these materials instead. And so on.

    And, an “oh please pardon” will do just fine in many cases too! All good food for thought…

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