Maybe it has to do with being Canadian, maybe it has to do with my upbringing. But I say sorry a lot. Too much. Even right now, as I write this, I’d like to apologize. I don’t even know why—but I want to!
The old saying goes that you should dress for the job you want. However, unlike a clean pair of chinos and a crisp button-down, apologizing all the time isn’t a great look for the office. It’s not going to get you any favours and it’s not going to get you that next promotion. More than likely it’ll do the opposite by making you appear subservient and lacking in credibility.
For the past years, I’ve been making a serious attempt to stop saying sorry in the office. Of course, it still happens from time to time. And sometimes it’s necessary. But by now, I have a pretty good handle on it. So, I’ve decided to share a few tricks to help all the other chronic apologizers out there!
1. Solutions Instead of Sorry’s
There are some instances in which you genuinely make a massive mistake and need to apologize. It’s part of taking responsibility and owning up to your work.
But for the day-to-day mix-ups, screw-ups, errors, and gaffes, it’s important to be able to hold your head up and take responsibility at the same time. Offer a solution instead of an apology. This subtle move will make you appear in control and turn your mistake into an intentional and proactive plan. Make it clear that you’re on top of it and that you’re doing something about it.
2. Swap ‘Sorry’ for ‘Thank You’
This one takes a special kind of tact. Rather than apologizing for an error, thank them for bringing it to your attention. Or if you’re late for a meeting, thank your colleagues for waiting. Show that you appreciate their understanding.
However, make sure you don’t take this one too far! If you really put someone out, thanking them for understanding will come off as arrogant. Or it’ll sound like you’ve worked too long as a corporate representative for an overseas customer service hotline.
3. Show Don’t Tell
At some point, you just can’t say you’re sorry anymore. But try showing it! Find out what steps need to be taken to correct your mistakes—and don’t make them again. This will tell your colleagues and employer that you take your work very seriously and that you’re striving to improve. Turn a mistake into an opportunity for growth and use your mistake to expose your true character!
4. Take a Break and Think About it
Ask yourself whether you’re really in trouble or whether your guilt complex is taking over. This is one that I can relate to. Most of the time I feel the impulse to say sorry, it’s completely unnecessary. It’s all in my head.
If you’re really not sure, ask someone! Find out whether you’re constructing an elaborate excuse to make yourself feel bad or whether you’ve actually made a serious mistake that needs to be addressed.
5. Download the App
Having trouble writing an email without including a hundred apologies? Why not download the Chrome extension Just Not Sorry. It will let you know whether the words you’ve chosen are undermining what you want to say.
While this could be a useful app for the compulsive apologizer, it also seems to imply that you should never apologize. There are situations in which you do need to apologize. What’s tough is figuring out when you should and when you shouldn’t—and when you should, start by correcting your mistake!