Want to be taken seriously … dump the sorry!
It’s an epidemic - the reflexive use of the word sorry and generic apologising.
From my personal observation, women in business apologise unnecessarily and all too frequently.
Recently I attended a networking function, the newly elected leader of the organisation stepped onto the stage, her first word was sorry, closely followed by a string of apologies and excuses about usually being more organised, not having had enough time to prepare for her talk - you get the gist!
This was a window of opportunity for her to welcome the room, establish herself as the leader and make an impression. She did make an impression among people in the room, but I doubt it was the one she wanted! This woman however, is in good company with many other women in business whose frequent behaviour of apologising has become a default setting.
Taking responsibility is a sign of professionalism. Taking responsibility for insignificant occurrences and responding with insincere regret is demeaning to you and fellow women. What’s more, it teaches others how to perceive you and treat you.
There’s a time to express regret. Saying sorry is socially appropriate when you experience emotion about a situation - we’re talking heartfelt regret. Brushing someone as you walk past, or asking a question in a group is not usually associated with heartfelt regret. If you genuinely felt sorry, would you knowingly repeat the same behaviour that caused you to feel sorry in the first place? Communication is a choice and we're always communicating, even when we're not!
“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry about” ~ Amy Poehler
So what’s the big deal about saying “sorry”? The issue is connecting your identity with an “I am” statement - for example “I’m sorry, I’m just, I’m such a klutz. Excessive use of “sorry’ reinforces you as being a victim, that you’re in the wrong, that you don't deserve to have your own opinions, that your word is not enough and that you don't deserve to exist. Too much?
Have a guess - how many times each day would you say sorry? Come up with your best guesstimate. Now out of those, how many “sorry’s” were appropriate, necessary and heartfelt?
Here’s some common scenarios for unnecessary use of “sorry” - not by you of course!!
- Before asking a question
- For taking up space in a walkway, waiting area, lift, coffee service or bar area
- To avoid confrontation
- As an alternative to saying no
- When you have a different opinion
- When you are being you (in a way thats different to what’s expected)
Create your alternative, something in line with your character… it could be: I apologise. Notice the difference between I apologise and I’m sorry - an action in the first example and an identity statement in the second. More examples include: excuse me, or something more playful like “almost collided” depending on the situation.
You deserve a break from that subtle and insidious inner monologue, and the only person who can change the dialogue in your head is you.
Take responsibility for the energy and language you bring to your space and own it, as only you can.
Respect yourself and live with worth.
Kerryn Gamble is an expert in persuasive presenting for introverted career women. She is the Author of UNSTOPPABLE - the professional woman’s guide to purpose, power & prosperity, and Founder of Woman of Worth.
On a mission to close the confidence and achievement gap for women, Kerryn applies her expertise in self confidence and self-leadership to help professional women communicate with conviction. To have Kerryn speak at your next event, click here.