Stop apologizing, start leading with confidence

We’ve all been there, and we’ve all seen her, that woman who stands tall, commands attention and respect, and owns the audience. She has confidence, energy, and leadership presence. 

In this article, we’ll talk about why women apologize, different forms of apologies and how we can kick the habit.

How many of you have already apologized to someone today?

Be honest, how many of you have already apologized to someone today? In the past 24 hours? The past week?

Do you catch yourself saying “I’m sorry” all the time? 

Maybe it goes something like this?   

  • I’m sorry, I was busy and forgot to text you back. 
  • I’m sorry, I can’t meet with you, my calendar is full.
  • You accidentally bump into someone at the grocery store. I’m sorry. 
  • I’m sorry I’m late, I had to pick up my kids.
  • I’m sorry but I have to reschedule our meeting.

We all do it and often don’t even think about it. How many times did you not respond to an email within 24 hours and start off with “I’m sorry.”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret

  • Women apologize more than men because we have a much lower threshold on what we consider offensive. 
  • Apologizing can be an endless cycle. Once you start, you keep apologizing, often without even realizing it.

Apologies can take many forms 

  • Apologizing to appease is the “OK, I’m apologizing, so just calm down.” apology. 
  • Apologizing on demand is one of the most common types of apology. This apology is not heartfelt; it’s a response to a loud uproar. We see this often when celebrities face public backlash for something they did.
  • Apologizing without apologizing is meant to look like an apology and is done out of duty. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” 
  • Apologizing from guilt is a slightly higher level of apology since it comes from a feeling of caring or empathy. For example, you leave your purse in the middle of the floor, and your significant other trips over it and breaks their leg. 
  • Apologizing to be polite. Some women apologize to show courtesy or to gain approval for how “nice” they are. These women apologize for everything.
  • Apologizing from love is the apology people make when they genuinely love and care about another person. They can empathize with the person (put themselves in the other person’s shoes) and have an accurate sense of how the other person might feel. 

“I’m sorry! Stop saying I’m sorry! Okay, I’m sorry!” 

Over-apologizing can:

  • Kill your confidence
  • Dilute the confidence others have in us
  • Undermine your authority
  • Negatively impact your career
  • Minimize your presence and contributions 

How do we kick the apology habit?

 Practice self-awareness: 

  • Keep a log for a week and write down each time you say or write the word “sorry.” The key here is to be aware and honest with yourself.
  • Gmail has a cool plug-in called Just Not Sorry that scans your email for words that undermine your message. 
  • Ask yourself, are you truly sorry? 
  • Ask yourself, did you do something wrong?
  • Notice any trends and identify triggers such as certain people or situations that may cause you to over-apologize. 
  • Before apologizing, consider—is it necessary?

Change your vocabulary
Now that you’ve kept a log for a week, let’s talk about how we can position ourselves to lead with confidence through our choice of words. Simple changes in how you say something can go a long way in building confidence. The words and phrases you choose can dilute or promote confidence.

For example:

Phrases and words to avoid. Why this phrase or word dilutes confidence. Instead, use words and a mindset that promotes confidence.
I hate to bother you, but “I hate to bother you, but, do you have time to discuss my career path?”  Leading with, “I hate to bother you, but” phrase immediately puts the other person in complete control by giving away your power. Say: “When you have a minute, I would like to discuss my career path with you.” Mindset: Accept that what you have to say is important. Your time is just as valuable as someone else’s 
I’m worried “I’m really worried about the direction of this
When you express worry, it shows that you fear a negative outcome and that you may be over-thinking it. Say: “I have some concerns about the direction of this project.” Mindset: Focus on the solution, not the problem.

Download, Changing your vocabulary to lead with confidence, a quick reference tool to build confidence through the words you use for more examples.

Be confident and intentional.
When you are deliberate in how you express yourself and direct in your work communications, your skills begin to shine. You feel more confident and perceived as a leader and trusted authority.  

Stop justifying
Justifying is the dreaded double-apology. You start with an unnecessary apology and then explain why you did or didn’t do something. While you may have to support your decisions with research, statistics, or business methodologies, you don’t owe an explanation to anybody for the choices and decisions you make.  

“When you start seeing your self-worth, you’ll find it harder to stay around those who don’t.”

Confidence starts from within, and when you begin to build confidence, you start to realize the value you bring.

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