Fun Friday: Oops! Do you say sorry too often?

Remember these three simple rules instead

Fun Friday: Oops! Do you say sorry too often?

That unnecessary “sorry” uttered when you politely correct a colleague, suggest a solution, and put in a request (or even decline one) sends people the wrong message.  

Apologising too often – when the person saying sorry isn’t really at fault – can impact how the person is perceived. In a professional setting, it can be a confidence killer, experts warn.

“Apologies have become our habitual way of communicating,” said sociologist and TED Talk speaker Dr. Maja Jovanovic. “Every single one of us has responded to a text you got when you weren’t able to respond right away. What did you say? ‘Sorry.’”

“Don’t apologize – say, ‘I was working,’ ‘I was reading,’ ‘I was driving,’” she said. “Whatever it is, it’s all good. You don’t have to apologise.”

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According to Dr. Karyn Hall, therapist and author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, people tend to preface their statements with “sorry” when they’re looking for reassurance that the other person isn’t upset with them.

“Perhaps upset that you have been successful. Maybe you want to be liked by others and thus are apologising to be accommodating, to put them first; and perhaps be submissive (not a threat in any way to anyone). Trying to not be a ‘threat’ is a way of saying, ‘Please be my friend’ (keep me in the tribe). Think what message that stance actually conveys to others and to yourself,” she shares on PsychCentral.

Beyond the effect that over-apologising has on our public image, saying sorry too often and unnecessarily can also be a reflection of how we perceive ourselves.

“If you apologise for all things that go wrong in your general vicinity, then you are essentially lowering your self-confidence. It’s like looking for ways that you are ‘less than’ and perhaps unconsciously gathering evidence to support a negative view of yourself,” Dr. Hall says.

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How to stop over-apologising at work

Be mindful of your reaction: Things won’t always go according to plan. If you encounter an error, problem or request at work, don’t feel sorry for having to go through the extra challenge. Instead, welcome the opportunity. Don’t say, “Sorry, but I think we’ll need to …” Go straight to the point and recommend a solution with statements like, “I have an idea …” or “We can try this option ...”

If you feel you need a bit of practice, you can download the Google Chrome extension (Gmail plug-in) called Just Not Sorry, which “warns you when you write emails using words which undermine your message”.

Remember the value you bring to the team: Don’t underestimate your contribution. Some people apologise when they assume that they might overshadow their colleagues and so feel compelled to give way to other people’s approach. Don’t be sorry for bringing your A-game. Pitch your ideas with confidence by remembering the unique skillset you possess. 

Be sincere: Focus on the task ahead and be transparent about what you know and how you feel about the work. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, we might run into some problems,” be upfront and say: “I believe this option could result in …” or “I feel more confident about this option …” Taking ownership of a project requires a bold and honest assessment.

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