Sorry. . .not sorry. . .

We say sorry a lot.  Maybe not all of us out there, but a lot of women say it a lot.

I am one of those women that used to say it all the time.  We say it for bumping into someone, when we don’t pass in a project on time, when the look on another person’s face shows we upset them, etc.  How many things can we say “I’m sorry” for each day?  

How many times do we say the phrase and actually mean it?

I still say that phrase from time to time, but more and more I catch myself.  I’ll tell you how I figured out I was using that word a lot and how I stopped myself, but before I do that I want to share a bit more on this dangerous phrase first.

As a woman, we try to people please.  That can mean doing or saying something that someone else might like.  This is a generality and it can go both way, but how many men do you see saying sorry on a regular basis?  Not many, I bet.  The thing is, being a people pleaser can be a good thing, but overusing this phrase can be harmful.

Using this phrase too often can make us look like we’re vulnerable, like we are saying it just to say it and like we’re not confident.  I’ve experienced this first hand at work.  I said “I’m sorry” for messing up a situation at work.  I really did mean it.  The problem is, it made me look like I didn’t know how to do my job.  It was a hard reality check, but it’s the exact smack in the face I needed.  Thankfully, it came from someone I trusted.  But using the phrase too often can be harmful if people are paying attention.

How do you realize you’re saying it too often? How do you fix it?

Listen to yourself and make a conscious effort to pay attention to when you say the phrase and what was going on when you say it.  Having context surrounding your use of this phrase is helpful because then you can see if the use of the phrase even fits.  

Learning how to fix it is a trickier process.  Below are a few tips for changing your behavior surrounding the phrase “I’m sorry”.

Tip 1 – Take a breath.

Before you even go to say the phrase, take a breathe.  Think about what’s happening, why you want to say the phrase and how it will be portrayed.  It’s a lot to think about in a split second, but our brains work fast.  Taking this breathe will let you gather your thoughts and then continue the conversation.

Tip 2 – Don’t apologize if you’re not really sure why you’re saying it.

The phrase “I’m sorry” is not even really necessary most of the time.  If you’re late to a luncheon with your friends, you don’t necessarily need to use the phrase.  They don’t know why you’re late and may not even be upset that you are.  Or if someone asks you to watch their kids but you can’t because you have plans, the phrase isn’t needed.  It’s not wrong that you already had plans.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  If you’re not sure that using the phrase will fit, it probably doesn’t.

Tip 3 – Don’t say sorry just to fill the gap.

The uncomfortable tension gap is awkward for everyone.  I used to fill that gap with some word or phrase just to cut the tension and make things ok again.  Filling the gap with the phrase “I’m sorry” doesn’t always make sense.  You may be saying it just to take up space and if that’s the case, the words have been wasted and do not really mean anything.

Now that you’ve read this, here’s my challenge for you.  Over the next week, take a note of how many times you say “I’m sorry”. Is it less than 5?  Is it more than 10?  Is it more than 50? This challenge is not to make you stressed or upset.  Rather, it’s to help you understand where you can improve.  It’s to help you understand the meaning of the phrase and how to use it better.  And take in what context you are using it?  At work?  At home?  With your child’s day care provider?

This challenge is not to make you stressed or upset.  Rather, it’s to help you understand where you can improve.  It’s to help you understand the meaning of the phrase and how to use it better.  

Report back and let’s see if we can get you to stop using the phrase “I’m sorry” when it doesn’t fit.  Go get ’em!

Share the love!