Urghh… I don’t like this blog but that’s not going to stop me from writing it.
The reason why I don’t like this post is that I understand this problem a bit too well actually. You see, in the workplace or office…. also outside of it… I always find myself saying “sorry” for every minor inconvenience. I take ownership and responsibility to new heights but such apologies are not even necessary at all.
So to get into defintions, the word “sorry” is very versatile in English and has a whole lot of meanings. It can express regret, show concern for someone’s feelings, or indicate guilt over something. But while this little word can have many different meanings in different contexts, it still boils down to one feeling at its core: shame.
Yes, you read that right! Now read it again… Sorry.
It might not seem like it, but the word “sorry” is the verbal equivalent of a bow and scrape. It’s a way to let others know that we recognise that our actions could have somehow offended someone or hurt them and we feel bad about it. To be fair, they might not have really cared but by apologising you turn it into a bigger deal. It implicitly becomes a game of power where you have lowered your rank.
Of course, when something really did happen to offend someone, actually saying “sorry” is not such a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite positive because it shows that you acknowledge what you did wrong and you are willing to rectify it if possible. But we are not talking about those moments. We are talking about:
- Coming under 5 mins late
- Forgetting to reply to an email while you have more than enough on your load
- Not respecting yourself enough and feeling the need to lower yourself
Let me reiterate, rephrase and expand. By saying sorry every time you end your sentences or send an email (yes, I’ve seen this done), indicates that the other person holds great power over you and makes you feel small. It subconsciously shows that you don’t have the confidence to stand up for yourself and believe in your own actions.
Here is another example of a bad habit that many people have:
Many people say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” every time they want to interrupt someone else. It’s similar to the Chinese habit of bowing and scraping by saying “sorry” even though you’re not really doing anything wrong, just to show that you respect the other person.
Asking for forgiveness is one thing–but when we ask forgiveness too often, we suggest to others that we need to be scolded because we did something wrong.
But the truth is that people usually don’t like it when others say sorry to them all the time, or SOMETIMES even apologise in general. It makes them feel bad about you or as if you’ve really done something wrong. We can’t live our lives like this all the time. We can’t constantly apologise to people when we’re not even at fault. It makes us seem weak and timid, like the person who apologises when someone accidentally steps on his toe.
It might be difficult for some of us to let go of this bad habit at first (me included), but be brave and keep gradually practicing in your email inbox. When you say “sorry” all the time, change it into something that doesn’t involve any apology–like saying, “Could you clarify x.” This way, your words won’t come out as apologies anymore.
Before: “Sorry, I meant to have asked what does the red button do?”
After: “I understand the red button has a purpose but could you clarify what that was?”
Did that all make sense so far?
Let’s just throw you some more examples of how to practice implementing a response without using “sorry”. Look below:
- Dont say sorry, say thank you. E.g. instead of saying “Sorry for being late”, say “Thank you for waiting for me”. (Obviously, if you made someone wait for a substantial amount of time, it is possibly better to apologise but a couple of mins don’t mean anything!)
- Don’t apoligise for ‘bothering people’. Instead, try saying this, “Is now a good time for a quick question?” (Perhaps knock on the door first if there is one). See?
- Try and practice empathy and not sympathy. When something happens to one of your fellow colleagues, a “sorry” sounds like you are showing sympathy but to take it to a new dimension, you could say, “This sounds like it has been really difficult….”. Are you getting the gist of it now? I’ll throw in one more…
- Ask for constructive feedback and raise self-awareness – that you are willing to make steps to achieve a desired outcome. Don’t say “Sorry, I missed that out by mistake”. Instead, say “Thanks for pointing that out, is there anything else that I am missing or worth pointing out?”.
To conclude, It’s not easy to get rid of this bad habit completely because it is so deeply rooted in our culture and language. But it’s something that we should always keep in mind and try to improve on.
The next time you can’t help but apologise, remind yourself that you’re better than that. If someone doesn’t appreciate your efforts, then maybe he/she isn’t worth your time and energy.