I always tell leaders and business professionals to stop saying “I’m sorry” and start saying “I apologize.” This small change in your daily communication can make a big difference because:
- When we say “I’m sorry” all the time it loses it’s impact and we aren’t taken as seriously.
- Overuse of “I’m sorry” can make us look weak or less than confident.
- We often say “I’m sorry” out of habit and wind up apologizing for things for which we have no business apologizing.
In my communication workshops, keynote speeches, and writing, I have been preaching this notion since the beginning of my career. So, imagine my surprise when I recently found myself repeatedly saying “I’m sorry” despite knowing better.
My new personal fitness trainer is learning how to modify a workout to accommodate my shoulder injuries and I am trying to discover where my physical limitations are due to the injuries. We often try exercises that I am physically unable to do due to (extreme) pain in my shoulders. Recently I found myself saying “I’m sorry” multiple times after attempting and failing one exercise modification after another. I was frustrated. I was embarrassed. I was in pain. And, I was grateful to her for her patience and willingness to keep looking for modifications.
Instead of expressing my gratitude, I was saying, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that one either.” At one point, she corrected me and said, “Stop saying you’re sorry – we will figure it out.” Wow. Talk about a learning experience for me. I knew better and I was saying “I’m sorry” anyway! After some thought, I realized I should have been using statements such as:
- I can’t do that one. It hurts. Thanks for being patient with me.
- That one hurts, too. I appreciate your flexibility in trying other options.
- I’m grateful you are willing to keep finding new options.
Those types of statements would have not only been more accurate expressions of my true inner state – I genuinely am grateful – they would also have been a significant deposit in her emotional bank account. Expressions of gratitude would have been a positive expression as opposed to the negative “I’m sorry.”
Can you think of a time where you should have expressed gratitude instead of an apology? Maybe the next time someone helps you with a task you can thank them instead of apologizing for taking their time? Perhaps the next time someone stays late at your request, you can thank them instead of apologizing for keeping them late? What opportunities like these may come up in the future for you?
If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.
Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.