“I’m sorry to bother you but can you help me on something?” “Sorry! I didn’t mean to run into you like that!”
Have you ever caught yourself in these scenarios and apologized when you didn’t need to? Don’t worry, a lot of us fall into this trap as well.
Saying sorry at work might make us think we are more polite and accommodating, but in retrospect, it can negatively affect our credibility in the long run.
Let’s stop apologizing at work and take control of how we communicate with our peers.
Why Do People Over-Apologize?
Over-apologizing usually emerges from a need to manage other people’s emotions and try to make them feel better.
When others are not happy, you might feel uncomfortable and try to rectify the situation by “people-pleasing” when you can.
Over-apologizing can also stem from a lack of self-confidence and wanting to be accepted by our peers. Those who are sensitive to rejection will use forgiveness to get social confirmation.
Some of us are also socialized in communities to be polite and women are more likely to be conditioned to maintain this social harmony. Therefore, they are more likely to apologize at a higher rate.
Why Should We Stop Apologizing at Work?
Admitting you’re at fault when you make a mistake at work is ok. Everyone makes mistakes.
However, if apologizing happens too often or you tend to say sorry in every sentence, a lack of confidence will be displayed which could lose a coworker’s trust in your abilities.
Starting off a sentence with “I’m sorry to bother you” or “Sorry to bring this up” will indicate to others that what you did was wrong when in fact, you were just there to make a statement.
It can undermine your work ethic and professional image by compromising on your professional values and make your real apologies less sincere.
How to Stop Apologizing at Work
Learning to stop apologizing at work will take time and practice. Here are some ways that can help you break the habit.
1. Be Mindful of Your Language
Keep track of what you say at work and if you notice phrases such as “I’m sorry” and “I apologize” during situations when they are not necessary, be mindful of those scenarios and use other ways to express your emotions.
Using empathy instead of forgiveness will forge a better foundation of respect with your peers and help with your professional image.
Example: Instead of saying “I’m sorry you feel stressed” say “I understand how you feel.”
2. Reframe Your Words
When you do need to apologize, try reframing your language to acknowledge the situation and take responsibility without being overly apologetic.
Using gratitude in the form of “thank you” instead of “sorry” is a wonderful life hack to acknowledge and compliment your coworkers without coming across too apologetic.
Example: Instead of saying “I’m sorry for moving the date of this meeting several times” say “Thank you for your understanding as we finalize the date.”
3. Take Action Instead
Use actions instead of words to correct mistakes. Saying “I’m sorry” could look like you are finding excuses and not take responsibility.
Instead, taking action to correct mistakes will demonstrate your drive to immediately rectify a situation.
Example: Instead of saying “I’m sorry I missed that error in that proposal,” fix the error in the proposal without needing to apologize.
4. Adjust Your Definition of Bad Behavior
Sometimes we perceive we have done more harm when in fact, there was none done in the first place.
Instead of apologizing right away, examine why you might feel this way.
What if your boss thinks taking time to answer emails might be normal?
What if they might be overloaded and have been slow to respond with their own emails?
Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations that you may not expect from others as it could lead to self-destructive thoughts.
Example: Instead of saying “Sorry for taking a long time to respond to your email” say “I appreciate your patience.”
5. Practice Communicating Statements
Don’t make unnecessary justifications for everything that you do. Establish healthy boundaries in the workplace and in your personal life.
There is no need to provide reasons for everything you do. Provide unqualified statements which will get to the point quicker.
If you are not used to being so blunt, it might be tricky to master this skill but practicing will make it easier.
Example: Avoid saying “Sorry but could we reschedule the meeting for later? I have an appointment during the same time that will be hard to get out of.”
Instead, say “I’m not available Wednesday.”
Stop Saying Sorry at Work
Next time you’re in a situation where you feel the need to apologize, use these tips to help break the habit of saying “I’m sorry.” With practice and plentiful resources from our Career Center, you will be well on your way to becoming a confident professional in the office.
Over to You
How are you trying to break the habit of over-apologizing? Tell us what worked for you!
We would love to hear your thoughts at our social @netwerkmovement.