Have you ever found yourself saying “I’m sorry” for things that don’t merit an apology?
It's a bad habit that can morph into a reflex reaction. This pattern of behavior can not only be exhausting to you, but to everyone — especially your co-workers, boss and family.
Constantly apologizing can have negative side effects on your career, from giving the appearance of incompetence to annoying your colleagues and superiors with your self-deprecating style. But the most detrimental and lasting side effect of over-apologizing? How it corrodes your self-image.
It can result in:
Any of this hitting close to home? If so, chances are this isn’t how you want to come across in the workplace, nor is it an accurate reflection of your character. It’s time to reclaim your confidence at the office and quit saying sorry as a crutch.
1. Reflect on how your experiences may be contributing to your tendency to over-apologize.
The better you understand how your early programming may be contributing to your behavior, the more power you'll have to take action and change.
Do some digging around questions like:
2. Examine the contexts in which your “sorry” impulse comes out.
Start to identify triggers that exacerbate your behavior such as certain people, contexts, moods or times of day. Pay attention to whether your tendency to over-apologize comes out with some co-workers more than others. For instance, that pushy, demanding client who constantly requests impossible deadlines may send your stress (and your "sorry" reflex) into overdrive.
3. Replace unwarranted apologies with accurate statements that communicate your point.
At first, this can be tricky. I often tell clients I work with that there's no shame in asking for verbal do-overs, particularly with family and friends. For example, if you need to cancel happy hour plans and find yourself auto-apologizing out of habit, catch yourself and say, “You know, what I really wanted to say is... thanks for understanding. It's a crazy week with all these upcoming deadlines and I appreciate you being flexible." Done! Now doesn't that feel better than spewing out "sorry, sorry I'm the worst, I know"?
In the long run, apologizing like it’s your job can do more harm to your career than good. By speaking more straightforwardly and clearly, you can showcase your skills and feel more confident in the process.
A version of this article appeared on Forbes. Melody Wilding is a coach and licensed social worker who helps ambitious high-achievers manage the emotional aspects of having a successful career. Her clients include CEOs and C-level executives at top Fortune 500 companies such as Google and HP, as well as media personalities, startup founders, and entrepreneurs across industries. She also teaches Human Behavior at Hunter College in NYC. Get free tools to grow your career confidence at melodywilding.com.
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