Sorry is as Sorry does…
If you are one of these people who over-apologise, you may need to take a different approach. Apologising too much can come from having low self-esteem or feeling anxious.
Using sorry as an occasional, heartfelt response can be very effective and it demonstrates humility. But its overuse can be perceived as excuse-making and therefore badly received, which is definitely not the result we want…
The following tips and hints will help you to find different ways to avoid saying “sorry” and useful alternatives to try:
SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TIME?; RESPOND WITH ACTIONS
- Instead of: “Sorry, I know that the project is taking longer/running late”
- Try: “The project took longer than I expected. I’ll have it for you first thing tomorrow.” — Then stop.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Build your self-esteem and self-confidence by getting constructive feedback.
- Instead of: “Sorry, I messed that up”
- Try: “Thanks for the info. I’ll get up to speed on that”
- Instead of: “Sorry, I’ll do better next time”
- Try: “Thank you for the feedback. I’m on it”
The other person will be encouraged that you want to improve and have more faith in this concept.
- Instead of: Sorry to disturb you… I know you’re so busy.
- Try: “Is now a good time for a quick questions?”
- Instead of: “I’m sorry to interrupt…”
- Try: “Just quickly, can I say/ask/suggest this…” or “Great points, however, I would like to add…”
EMPATHY INSTEAD OF SYMPATHY
Some people use “I’m sorry” to show sympathy, but it works better if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes; practising empathy instead. For example, if someone shares a difficult story or experience.
- Instead of: “I’m sorry to hear that…”
- Try: “That sounds like it was really hard for you. I’m here for you”
This will make the other person feel heard, valued and therefore considerably better.
SAY WHAT YOU THINK
By becoming more aware of what you’re saying, you can get better at expressing yourself, and that will automatically increase your confidence, too.
Whilst it is never our intention to offend, a well thought out and expressed opinion has value — even if others sometimes disagree. The more you trust your own word, the more you have courage to be who you are and say what you think, and gain the respect of others too.
- Instead of: “Sorry, but I don’t think I see it that way”
- Try: “That view point is really intriguing. I have a different take… let me explain… “
This is a purely practical approach to offer perspective and won’t detract from the power of your opinion.
REPLACE “SORRY” WITH “THANK YOU”
To be grateful for a person’s understanding of your predicament is one of the best ways to go.
- Instead of: I’m sorry I’m late
- Try: “Thank you for waiting for me. I appreciate your patience”
- Instead of: “Sorry for rescheduling this meeting again”
- Try: “I know I’ve had to reschedule this meeting several times. Thank you for understanding”
Take your power back by owning your situation, cutting out the sob story, and giving a simple thank you — This is far more effective than apologizing.
If someone ask you to repeat (often more than once) something because s/he could not understand it the first time, there is no apology needed. You have done nothing wrong here. Just say “Okay”, explain yourself once again, and that’s it.
USE A SYNONYM
Instead of: I’m sorry
- I/we regret to inform/tell you that
- my (humble/deepest/sincere etc) apologies
- I beg your pardon
- excuse me
- forgive me (for doing something)/forgive my doing something
- I’m afraid
- due to/for reasons beyond someone’s control
SAY “I AM SORRY”
Use “I am sorry” where necessary and without compromising your dignity. This is possible if you try to maintain the balance between your self-consciousness and self-awareness when apologising. Choose heartfelt and warm words which truly indicate how sorry you are.
If you have offended someone, just apologize away. Do not then undermine this by apologising for being yourself; have confidence in you and your opinions without the need for being forceful and offensive. Always empathy, not sympathy!