I love language, especially listening to the words that people choose to speak. Lately, I have noticed something quite peculiar. Call it a trend, or a bad habit. I have become acutely aware of people who repeatedly apologize. The key word here is repeatedly.
Their comment automatically begins with “I’m sorry.”
What would you think of someone who you met for the first time who, within several minutes, apologized to you several times? The confident professional would not apologize. It’s the person with the lack of self-confidence who would.
Whether it’s you or a member of your team, listen to the language being used. Whenever there is repetitive language, listen more intently to the impression that is being made. Is it a positive or negative impression?
Here are a few examples of “I’m sorry” that I recently experienced:
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you preferred coffee or tea.” Revised: “Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
“I’m sorry, but could you end the program at 3:45 instead of 4:00?” Revised: “Could you please end the program at 3:45 instead of 4:00?”
“I’m sorry. Could you please wait until everyone arrives before you start your presentation?” Revised: “Could you please wait until everyone arrives before you start your presentation?
It’s a small change with great impact. By removing the habitual “I’m sorry” from your language, you position yourself with greater certainty and confidence.
Here are a few ways to help you stop over-apologizing:
Become more aware of your language. Do you say “I’m sorry” too often? If so, ask yourself why.
Pause. Take the time to choose your words more carefully. Instead of automatically saying “I’m sorry,” take a few seconds to compose your thoughts and begin the sentence with your core message.
Become more aware of the impact your language has on others. Have several people suggested that you stop apologizing, or asked you why you’re apologizing? That’s a signal that you are over-apologizing. Simply drop the phrase as your default.
Snap out of the deficit thinking. People who over-apologize may have issues with self-worth. Replace the deficit thinking with abundance and gratitude.
The flip side: Of course there will be times when you will need to use the phrase “I’m sorry.” Save it for those occasions when you really need to use it, and it means something important rather than just a sentence starter.