Are You Always Saying That You Are Sorry?

Nancy Anderson
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There's a fine line between owning up to your mistakes and over-apologizing, and recognizing it can mean the difference between putting yourself down and boosting your confidence. Over-apologizing in the workplace can become a self-destructive professional habit you should absolutely address, especially considering it can lead others to question your capability and authority. Empower yourself and take control of your habit of saying "sorry" using a few simple steps.

Step 1: Tally Up Your Apologies

If you want to create a positive professional habit for healthier workplace vibes, understand why you are apologizing more often than necessary. Use a note-taking app on your smartphone or a pen and paper in your pocket to note down every time you say you're sorry. This might occur during a conversation with a co-worker, in a meeting, on the phone, over email, or in more casual situations such as your lunch break. Be sure to include the date and a note briefly describing the situation in which you caught yourself apologizing. If you plan to modify your professional habit of over-apologizing, complete this process for at least a week, counting up all the instances of saying "sorry" at the end of the allotted period. Use a highlighter to mark scenarios that have drawn an apology from you more than once.

Step 2: Determine Your Triggers for Saying "Sorry"

Carefully read over your apologetic instances from the previous week, noting which ones were responses to actual mistakes and which ones arose due to habit. From the list of unnecessary apologies, look for common factors. For example, you might be saying you're sorry more often to certain team members, over written communication, or during encounters that occur unexpectedly. Use this data to begin correcting your professional habit of workplace apologies.

Step 3: Try Rephrasing Future Instances of "I'm Sorry"

As practice, spend the next week without saying "sorry," training yourself to find more constructive responses. In every instance, brainstorm a way of communicating that puts a more confident, empowering spin on your usual apology. This might include saying, "Thank you for your patience" instead of, "Sorry, I'm a little late."

Another way to implement this professional habit would be to say, "I appreciate you bringing that missing memo to my attention" rather than, "Sorry I forgot to include it." If you do make a mistake big enough to warrant an apology, focus your attention on solutions rather than regrets. Asking how you can improve for next time is more helpful to everyone than simply saying you're sorry for failing.

Workplace apologies can become a slippery slope that bring you toward a negative professional habit, but with some practice, you can amp up your vocabulary to maximize empowerment. If you remember a time when you said "sorry" although the situation didn't truly warrant it, share it in the comments. Have you found a more positive way to communicate those thoughts?

Photo courtesy of Chelsey Grossman at


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