We’ve all done it, someone bumps into you on the street and without thinking you say, “Sorry!” What about when the person next to you on the bus stretches and knocks your shoulder—did you apologize then, too? Women in particular struggle with over-apologizing, but it’s time to stop! Here’s why you might be doing it and how to break the habit.
Why you may do it…
Worried you’re an inconvenience?
If you start questions by saying, “Sorry, this may be a dumb question but…” or “Sorry for interrupting, but…” you’re telling your colleague or boss that what you have to say isn’t worth their time. If you don’t think so, why should they?
Are you being too aggressive?
Probably not. Sometimes a strong woman can be labeled as a threat. You may worry that being assertive comes across as being aggressive. Not wanting to be labeled as “bossy,” or as a “harpy,” you may apologize to make yourself seem softer—but do you really need to?
Do you try playing peacekeeper?
Some parents, purposefully or not, bring their daughters up to be nice instead of strong. If you relate, you may withhold your real feelings, whether at home, at work, or amongst friends. You might say “sorry” to avoid rocking the boat, but is artificiality something higher ups look at for promotion?
Own your space.
Instead of apologizing out of habit, take control. Ask yourself, “is this really something I am sorry for? Did I contribute to the problem?” Probably not. What are you really feeling—are you angry? Take a moment to sort through your thoughts, and then communicate them, not your apologies.
Keep tabs on yourself.
Write down every time you apologize and what for. Looking at these notes will show a pattern—do you stand up for yourself around strangers, but apologize too often around colleagues? Also, try asking a friend to point out when you say sorry unnecessarily. Knowing someone has your back will keep you on track.
Get new lingo.
Practice being assertive in front of a mirror—think of a time you said “I’m sorry” before you voiced your opinion. Now eliminate those two words and begin again. For example, try starting with, “Here’s what I propose.” It probably will feel awkward at first, but do it anyway. Being aware of your words when you meet with colleagues will give your insights more weight.
- People will not only respect you more, you will too.
- You’ll act from a position of strength and your body language will reflect this.
- New opportunities will come your way.