In my blog on self-compassion this month, I wrote about how important it is to treat yourself like a nurturing parent. This is a positive practice for building our confidence and adds powerfully to our professional presence. An often unconscious habit that can hurt our professional presence is unnecessary apologizing.
I realized that I find myself doing this too much. I noticed that I was saying, “I’m sorry” for the slightest things, like an unconscious habit:
• Someone puts his arm on my armrest on the airplane and knocks mine off. I say, “I’m sorry.”
• I pop into a person’s office, and I start with “I’m sorry.”
• I speak at the same time as another starts to speak. I say, “I’m sorry.” If it’s a man, he doesn’t say it. If it’s a woman, we both say it at the same time.
Apologizing is actually a good thing to do and can be powerful in building strong relationships and gaining trust. But, it should be done thoughtfully and purposefully. The kind of “I’m sorries” that I am referring to are the ones that are verbal habits that pull down the confidence and credibility that we can exude by our professional presence. Check out Pantene’s Be Strong and Shine videos on You Tube. They are short and very powerful depictions of this pattern. These videos illustrate how one can show up with greater presence by making a few shifts in behavior.
Women naturally use apologies to be polite and equalize a power differential. With men, the evolutionary origins of apologizing are different. Men naturally treat apologizing in a hierarchical way since their general orientation is hierarchical. The one who is apologized to becomes the alpha. Women that apologize habitually unwittingly make the other the alpha. While women are more forgiving of habitual “I’m sorries”, it still detracts from their professional presence.
This is what I do now:
• My arm is pushed off the armrest and I look over – I don’t say anything.
• I open the door to a person’s office and say, “Good morning. I’d like to talk with you about something important.”
• I speak at the same time as another person starts to speak, and I pause. I either speak or say, “Go right ahead.”