Dear women of America:
Stop saying you’re sorry! No, I’m serious. Unless you have actually messed up and an apology is in order, take those two little words out of your vocabulary. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at work or at the grocery store and women pass by me and say “I’m so sorry.” You didn’t do anything. I promise, I’m not going to be offended if you pass too close to me in a crowded aisle. We have a phrase for that, it’s called “Excuse me.”
We actually talked about this phenomenon the other day in one of my Women’s Studies classes, even though I was already aware of it:Men say they’re sorry when they’ve done something wrong. Women say they’re sorry for pretty much anything.
“Excuse me.” “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“I need to talk to so-and-so.” “I’m sorry, she’s not here right now.”
“Do you have another quarter?” (in the checkout line) “I’m so sorry!” (that I didn’t give you the right change the first time)
Do you see how ridiculous this is? Especially in the business world, constantly saying you’re sorry will downplay your accomplishments. It also downgrades a true apology because you apologize all the time–sort of like crying wolf. I have worked in sales for quite a while, and was told once by a manager to never apologize–always try to put something in a positive light. So, instead of
“I’m sorry you had to wait so long.”
try “Thank you for your patience.” instead.
This was the best advice she ever gave me.
Not only does this put a positive spin on a bad situation, it doesn’t make me sound vulnerable–which, if your customer is a little annoyed, could make them go off because they sense that weakness. Now, if I seriously messed up, it’s definitely appropriate to apologize. But it’s silly to say you’re sorry for something that’s out of your control, like wait time.
Now, I am not holier than anyone. I catch myself doing this all the time, even when I know I shouldn’t. It just pops right out of my mouth. The important thing is recognizing that it’s not necessary and stopping yourself next time. If someone apologizes to me in public, I have even started giving a smile and saying “Don’t apologize, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Lots of women (and I know some men that do it too!) don’t even realize what they’re saying. I’ve been surprised at the uplift in my mood since I’ve begun practicing this.