Stop Apologizing: 10 Alternative Approaches To ‘I’m Sorry’

Linda ReyesBlogging, Forbes Coaches Counsel

How many times have you uttered the words, “I’m sorry” when you haven’t actually offended someone or made an error? It’s a common phenomenon, especially in the workplace. While you may think your reflexive apology shows deference, respect or accommodation, it’s actually making you appear less confident in your own professional abilities.

If you struggle with chronic over-apologizing, you may need to take a different approach and find ways to express what you truly mean. According to these Forbes Coaches Council members, here are 10 instances where you shouldn’t say you’re sorry, and what you should say instead.

All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.

1. Find A Way To Say ‘Thank You’

Show concern without demeaning yourself by saying “thank you.” For example, if a project falls behind skip the excuses (“I’m so sorry I don’t have this to you yet”) and exchange it: “Thank you for your patience as we navigate this project, you will have it by Friday of next week.” Take your power back by owning your situation, cutting out the sob story, and giving a simple thank you. – Heather MurphyAuthentically: Business & Life Solutions

2. Respond With Actions, Not Words

Using sorry as an occasional, heartfelt response to disappointment can be very effective at work or at home. At its best, it demonstrates humility and asks for atonement. But its overuse can be perceived as excuse-making. Add actively pursuing an immediate correction and recovery to a time you want to use the word sorry. Action to repair and recover can be a positive alternative to the word sorry. – John M. O’ConnorCareer Pro Inc.

3. Talk About What You’d Like To See Happen As A Resolution

“I’m sorry” can become a statement without meaning. A great replacement for I’m sorry is “I desire.” This statement is a leading statement that places the focus on what is going to happen or what both parties would like to see happen. It allows the hearer to feel heard and know the heart of the speaker. With this statement, the speaker is able to move to resolution. – Ken GosnellCEO Experience

4. Apologize Without Using The Word ‘Sorry’

An apology is about taking responsibility and making a commitment to do differently next time. If you aren’t responsible or would do the same again, then it’s not the time to say sorry. Next time you feel pulled to say “sorry,” simply don’t use that word. Make the apology without it. This will compel you to be clear on your part of the story. – Evan WeselakeGetPureFocus

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

5. Don’t Apologize For ‘Bothering’ People

I see “sorry” most frequently misused during a meeting or conversation when you want to interject an opinion or ask a question. Instead, simply and kindly speak your mind when the other person has taken a pause and, when knocking on your boss’s door, say, “Is now a good time for a quick question?” Don’t apologize for having an opinion or a question that will enable you to get your job done. – Loren MargolisTraining & Leadership Success LLC

6. Practice Empathy Instead Of Giving A Sympathy ‘Sorry’

Some people use “I’m sorry” to show sympathy. Instead, practice empathy by reflecting what the other person might be feeling. For example, if someone shares a difficult story or experience, you might say, “That sounds like it was really hard for you.” Sorry often conveys sympathy, which rarely makes the other person feel heard, valued or better. – Jenn LofgrenIncito Executive & Leadership Development

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