How to stop saying I’m sorry all the time
Most people want to be likeable. That’s a good thing, because the desire to be likeable leads us to behaviors such as minding our manners, fighting fairly, or providing “constructive feedback” rather than just telling our co-workers what we really think.
Unfortunately, research shows that for many women the need to be likeable leads to a tendency to apologize when no apology is needed. Susan Fleming, a senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration specializing in entrepreneurship and women in leadership says that women are often victims of the “double bind,” a situation in which women have to navigate a fine line between being assertive and smart (in other words, a leader) while also exhibiting the more feminine qualities of being communal or nice. She goes on to say that women tend to face strong reactions as leaders due to gender stereotypes. Plus, women tend to deal with impostor syndrome, which can lead them to second guess themselves.
Women also tend to be perceived as less competent than men. While this perception certainly isn’t fair, as women, we’re not doing ourselves any favors by apologizing when we shouldn’t. Saying “I’m sorry” more than necessary undermines your credibility, makes you look insecure, and can be annoying. Plus, if you start speaking by apologizing for your ideas, how can anyone else take them seriously. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?”
So, what can you do if you tend to say I’m sorry more than you should? Try these ideas:
Instead of saying I’m sorry when you bump into someone - try pardon me. Pardon me also works well when you can’t hear what someone said and need them to repeat themselves.
Instead of saying I’m sorry when you need to introduce an idea in a meeting - just say I have an idea. Don’t apologize for it first. You have good ideas!
Instead of saying I’m sorry when you need to clarify a point - say, “I’d like to ask a question.”
Instead of saying I’m sorry when you’re late - try saying, “Thanks for waiting.” Or, express appreciation by saying you’re glad the other person waited for you.
Removing the I’m sorrys from your normal conversation takes work but it can be done. If possible, practice what you want to say when you see the situation coming, such as when you’re getting ready to enter a meeting a little late. You already know you’re late, prep yourself to NOT apologize! If you can eliminate excess apologies from your conversation, you’ll feel stronger and more competent, which will have a positive impact on others’ perceptions of you.