Breaking the "Sorry Habit"

Sorry, Sorry, Sorry.png

Ladies… we really need to stop apologizing. Sorry, but it’s true! (Oops…)

The sorry habit is darn near an epidemic that reduces influence and promotability for many women (and some men) in the workplace. Like most habits, we usually don’t realize that we are doing it… or how often.

I advise many of my mentoring clients to keep a “Sorry Journal” for one week. The homework assignment is simple: catalogue every “I’m sorry”, “I apologize”, and “Sorry, got a minute?” for seven days. In week two, we discuss how to kick the sorry habit.

The results are enlightening. Once we understand how often these words casually slip into our conversations, and which situations tend to result in an apologetic response, it’s easier to plan an alternate and more powerful response.

Here are the top triggers that the “Sorry Journal” typically identifies. Women often apologize when they:

  • Interject ideas into a conversation - “Sorry, I have something to add here…”

  • Show compassion - “I’m sorry your vacation didn’t go as planned”

  • Feel small - “Sorry, I’ll move so you can sit here”

If you are reading this and thinking, “Ohhhh… that is sooooo me!”, here are a few replacement actions and phrases to help you kick the sorry habit:

  • Pause / Then Interject - It’s much more powerful to wait for a lull in the conversation, and say, “What if we considered…”. When the conversation has moved on to a new subject, saying “Can we go back to _____?" or "I believe we have a risk around…” works great.

  • Acknowledge the emotion - Compassion isn’t taking responsibility or trying to help someone feel better. It’s simply demonstrating understanding. Try saying “That must be frustrating”, or “I can see where that would be a difficult situation” the next time you’re tempted to use “I’m sorry” as a compassionate response. 
  • Do you have a minute? - This works perfectly whether dropping by to chat with a colleague, direct report, or leader. Your time is equally valuable, no need to apologize for the desire to have a conversation.
  • Thank you - Yes, you read that right. It sounds strange at first, and it works! Replace “Sorry I asked to leave early yesterday when the babysitter called”, with “Thank you for your understanding when I needed to leave early yesterday”. It’s magic!

The sorry habit keeps us small. Be bold, kind, and effective by eliminating unnecessary apologies.

You'll see an increase in your level of influence and promotability as you rise with confidence and grace!