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Stop Saying "I'm Sorry"


Being a woman-owned business is tough, being a working woman is hard in general. It sometimes feels we need to tip toe around, or play dumb, or my personal favorite “smile more” to get stuff done. I remember when I worked at Starbucks I would get reprimanded for being “too bossy” though I was the shift supervisor on duty. I had to learn how to control my “bossy-ness” or to be more “tactful” with my words. It got to a point in my life where I would meet someone new at work and just let them know that I could come off as brash and bossy and that it wasn’t meant to hurt their feelings, it was simply that I was in “work-mode” trying to get stuff done. In all honesty, this still hasn’t really changed.

I’m sure there are some women out there who can relate to this. Maybe you were called bossy or demanding, or high maintenance. So you learned to dull yourself down or to manipulate your words so you wouldn’t offend anyone. You may have started adding “I’m sorry”’s or “Excuse me?” or something along the lines of “I’m sorry to bother you.”  I’m here to tell you to stop doing that. 

I would apologize for everything, even things that needed no apology. I’m sure you have been in this boat. Who has started emails with these words: “Sorry to bother you….” “Sorry for being late…” “Sorry but I am needing..”? By using these phrases I was making myself inferior to whoever I was contacting. Why was I doing this? It wasn’t until I read something or heard it on a podcast or something that smacked me in the face and said…. STOP APOLOGIZING!

So here are the things I have swapped out for “I am sorry..”

  • I’m sorry for being late — Thank you for waiting. 

  • I’m sorry to bother you but have you had time to get me ___ — Checking in to see if you have __ ready for me? 

  • I’m sorry, what did you say? — What did you say? 

  • Thank you for taking the time to meet me — It was great meeting you.

The last one I recently learned. When you thank someone for their time, it makes it seem like your time is not worth as much as theirs. (This one has a slight caveat. If you are meeting someone to ask for advise or their expertise. You should thank them but try a phrase such as: It was great meeting you. Thank you for your wisdom.”)

Our words are powerful, not only to communicate our ideas with others but they also set a tone for us. I am not sorry. I will apologize when I feel it is owned not because I am reminding someone of a revision they need to send me, or because they need to make a decision. I am not saying you need to be mean or rude, yet if there is no reason to apologize, stop doing it. 

Have you swapped your language for any of these? Or do you have other tips you’ve learned?