I’m Sorry for Apologizing?

So what is all this business with blogs that tell us to stop apologizing? Personally, I’ve been trained from childhood to be polite and just come to terms with accepting responsibility. Am I just being stubborn with embracing change, or is our world becoming a bit cold and devoid of feeling? Well, I hope it’s not nearly as dramatic as either of those! Really, it’s a matter of understanding the true meaning behind this and gleaning the items of value so we can utilize them.

Let’s start with some examples

One apology blog that I read painted the picture of some innocent individual walking down a hallway and apologizing for accidentally colliding with someone. This author said the individual should stop apologizing. Since the other person was also walking in said corridor, that person was equally at fault, making our protagonist’s apology superfluous.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit saddened by a world where we collide with others and don’t acknowledge it in some way! A quick apology seems quite acceptable there, or perhaps an “excuse me.”

It’s about word choice

A few days ago, I was brainstorming with a colleague in her workspace. She reached for her mug to grab a sip of tea, and my arm was sort of blocking the mug. I stifled an apology and instead said, “excuse me” as I moved my arm. Of course, I hadn’t done anything wrong, and my colleague certainly was not expecting an apology. I just needed a couple words that would acknowledge that I was unknowingly in the way.

What’s really going on?

For many writers on the topic, their fear is that apologies either make us weak or that some of us apologize so often that the overuse can irritate others. So instead, I suggest that we find other words to express the same concept.

Let’s try another example. You’re running 15 minutes late for your appointments on a particular day. You have someone who arrived on time and has been waiting for you. Instead of staying “I’m sorry I’m running behind!” you can say “thank you so much for your patience!” This use of gratitude shifts the focus to a positive statement about how patient your customer or client is. And as added bonus, this positivity makes it less likely that your customer/client acts defensively about the delay since you have acknowledged it.

Keep in mind, of course, that sometimes we do have to apologize for being late. After all, I can’t show up to work 3 hours late and just thank everyone for their patience.

Sorry not sorry?

I think we all have at some point said something like “I’m sorry you took it that way” when someone interpreted our words in a way we did not intend. So here’s the problem. That’s not actually an apology—despite the “sorry.” It shifts the blame back onto the other person, implying that they are wrong for how they feel.

Something more effective might be “I’m sorry my words caused you to feel that way.” The negative impression wasn’t intended, but it still happened and people are all entitled to feel the way they feel. Taking on some responsibility tends to put the other party more at ease, allowing you to then rephrase things in a way more in line with your original intention. So yes, this is a case where “I’m sorry” goes a long way, provided it’s actually delivered as a true apology, of course. But if it’s not, it’s an example of when to stop apologizing.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist