I am a fan of two words. I repeat them often, in the office and to strangers. “I’m sorry,” is essentially an admission of guilt. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” “I’m sorry I bumped into you,” but why have I decided to always place blame on myself? I have begun to utter it constantly, started to apologize for asking questions, for stating my opinion in meetings, and for other reasons that truly make no sense. I am on the never-ending apology tour.
This is a change I, and many other people need to make in their lives. Asking questions helps you learn, having an opinion is natural and when someone else runs into you, guess what, it is not always your fault. I have created some new guidelines for myself and other “over apologizers” to better get our point across without feeling and acting as though we have done something wrong. Saying “sorry” when you are not at fault not only belittles what you are about to say, but takes away from a true and deserved apology.
Change your terminology: When you feel the urge to say “I’m sorry” choose to use other words that express appreciation for someone’s time rather than dismissing the importance of your own. Say, “Would you mind if..?” or “Excuse me,” instead.
Identify times an apology is due: Truly take the time to dissect a situation before you jump to apologizing. Ask yourself these questions – Did I do something that hurt or upset someone? Did I make a mistake? Did I offend someone? Would my actions change someone’s perspective on my integrity? – These are appropriate times to express remorse.
Know when NOT to say sorry: When a person is feeling something and wants to express concern or emotion they are not due to apologize. When asking someone of something that falls within their job responsibility, apologizing is not appropriate. Holding people accountable is part of a work environment and there is no need to feel guilty for expecting people to be diligent in their work. Asking someone for a report that is due is not an inconvenience, it is their job. Expecting people to complete their responsibilities and requiring it of them is no reason to be apologetic.
Be cognizant of when and how you apologize: A true apology should be sincere. When you continue to let it roll off your tongue during undue times it feels less and less authentic. When an apology is due, take your time to express why you are saying sorry and be thorough in your explanation. An important note is that when you apologize you are admitting that what you have done is wrong and you do not plan on doing it again in the future. Do not apologize if you intend on repeating said behavior because that too is disingenuous. Apologizing too much and without proper reason devalues your true apologies.
Remember to know the worth of your time and others’, hold people accountable and be comfortable stating your opinions. We learn and grow from each other’s ideas. Take ownership of your mistakes but stand by your expectations. When an apology is owed, be sincere.