Have you ever apologized for something that didn’t merit an apology? For example, you start an email with, “I’m sorry to bother you, but….”
Forbes contributor, Melody Wilding writes how over-apologizing can quickly grow into a self-defeating bad habit. The reasons why we find ourselves saying “I’m sorry” for things that don’t warrant an apology could stem from our childhood. At a young age, we are socialized to value politeness and being nice equates to likability. Or maybe it’s used as an aversion to conflict.
No matter what the reasons why we tend to over-apologize; Wilding says that constant apologizing can have a negative side effect on your career by giving the appearance of incompetence while corroding your self-image.
Too many “I’m sorrys” in the workplace can create:
- Insecurity and self-doubt— How can you feel confident if you are constantly saying that you’re sorry?
- Insincerity— If you are regularly giving unwarranted apologies, it dilutes the power of the phrase and it may start to come off as dishonest.
- Powerlessness— If you’re the only one apologizing in the room it can signify a power imbalance.
- Depending on external validation— When you say “I’m sorry’, you maybe subconsciously seeking reassurance. Hoping for a “Nothing to apologize for” type of response.
- Compromising your professional values—Wilding writes that over-apologizers tend to focus more on others’ perceptions of what is right and wrong instead of their own, losing a sense of their own personal beliefs and values.
Wilding offers these steps to try and curb “I’m sorry” so much.
First, reflect on how early-programming may be contributing to your behavior. Ask yourself questions like, what’s your first reaction you have when someone tells you “no”? When you were younger, was it acceptable to speak up and share your opinion?
Next, start to identify triggers that bring out the “I’m sorry” impulse. Do you do it more when you’re in a stressful mood, or certain times of day or with a particular group?
Then Wilder says to start replacing unwarranted apologies with accurate statements to communicate your point. For example, if you have to reschedule a meeting or plans with a friend and find yourself auto-apologizing out of habit, Wilder suggests simply state “Thanks for understanding…” and your reasons for the schedule change and move on. By speaking more straightforward and clearly, you can showcase your skills and feel more confident in the process.