Is "I'm sorry" a regular part of your conversation with others?
If someone bumps into you, do you say "I'm sorry"?
If the waiter brought you an incorrect food order, do you apologize for sending it back?
If you answers yes to these questions I want to help you. You're excessive apology is hurting you and your advancement.
March is National Women's history month in the US. On my facebook page I have posting leadership quotes by women daily. So this post is specifically for women (although some men struggle with this problem too).
PLEASE stop apologizing so much!
I am all for a sincere apology when you have done something wrong. It goes a long way to restoring a broken relationship and building or rebuilding trust. But have you noticed women apologize for more than their male coworkers? Apologizing so much can be hurting your career, your advancement, and your personal growth.
There is a story of a little boy who would pray every night with his parents. He would pray. "God, forgive me for what I did wrong today." Night after night, the little boy would ask for forgiveness. One night his concerned asked him, "have you been doing something wrong that we don't know about?" The little boy quickly said, "Oh no!" "Then why do you ask God to forgive you for doing wrong?" And the little replied, "Just in case. Then I'm covered."
A lot of women take the same approach as the little boys. It is easier to preemptively apologize just in case there might be conflict. This is a dangerous habit.
The "automatic apology" or "blanket apology" or "reflex apology" makes you seem extremely insecure, unaware, and even desperate. If you want to be seen as a leader, you have to see yourself as a leader and be willing to stand behind your decisions. You also have to stop taking responsibility for stuff that isn't yours.
In an article on jobs by AOL, Linda Sapadin Ph.D. says, "By taking responsibility for things that aren't your fault, you denigrate your self-esteem." You are unduly making yourself a martyr and self made martyrs always ends up bitter.
Do women apologize more than men?
Yes and no!
According to one study, both men and women apologized 81% of the time when they deemed their actions offensive. No difference. But women were more likely to see their actions as offensive than their male counterparts. In other words, men have a higher threshhold on what deserves an apology than women.
Let's look at an example:
Accidentally spilling coffee on someone is reparation that deserves an apology from both men and women. Both genders would apologize for that offense.
Making a contradicting point to a superior at work is a reparation that most women think deserves an apology. Men won't see it as an offense and therefore will not apologize for it.
What message excessive apologizing sends to others
1. You are aren't confident.
2. You aren't sure of yourself.
3. You have to be in harmony with other at all costs.
4. You are unclear about your worth.
As I stated in post on fighting for you limitations, no one is going to stop you from de-valuing yourself...at least not for the long term anyway.
It is up to you to find the strength to see the cycle and stop it. And I want to help.
How to break the excessive apology cycle
1. Know your numbers.
The first step to change is awareness. How often do you apologize? One of my favorite things to do with my coaching clients is to be a fly on the wall of their day. I observe their regular interactions with their staff and co-workers. I then report their strengths and weaknesses as I see them.
Ask someone you trust to count (or voice record yourself) during a day to see how often you do it. Is that really necessary, Julia? Yes! Why?
If you ever tried losing weight, the first thing a nutritionist will tell you is to track what you eat. You do this to become aware of exactly what you are eating. When I worked at Weight Watchers, we always said, "We tend to under-estimate how much we ate, and over estimate how much we exercise."
You may suspect you are an excessive "apologizer" but until you see the exact number of times you apologized in a day, you won't buy into the idea that it is hurting your credibility.
Also, it give you a starting point for tracking you progress. By quantifying your results you'll objectively see how much you have progressed. "I think I auto-apologize less now" is not as powerful as "I auto-apologize 69% less now than I did a month ago."
2. Know you triggers.
In one Slate article that advocated women should not stop apologizing, the author points out that an "I'm sorry" sometimes is used to express sympathy or express concern. In most cases of reflexive apologies, this isn't the case though.
Why do you automatically resort to "sorry"? Are you feeling like you need to stand up for yourself or your idea but don't want offend? Do you think apologizing will prevent them from calling you the dreaded B word? Do you simply don't know what else to say?
Prepare a counter strategy to your triggers.
3. Know what you really mean.
Women say "I'm sorry" when they really mean "I thought you knew" or "There is some confusion" or "I have a difference of opinion".
Examine what you really want to say and then say those words. You don't have to apologize for having an opinion or stating your opinion. If someone, didn't know a fact, and it wasn't your fault, then don't apologize.
Reserve apologies for when you made an error, an offense, or to show true sorrow. It will not only greatly improve your self-esteem but also your presence.
A coach I can help you on this journey to identifying your numbers, identifying your triggers, and then coming up with a strategy to over this habit. Click here to contact me.
Do you know someone who always apologizes? How, if at all, does his or her excessive apology color the way others view him or her?