I'm sorry, but we need to stop apologizing for everything.
I apologize for EVERYTHING and it's driving me nuts. It's like this ridiculous reflex; it just pops out of my mouth before I even have a chance to think about it. "I'm sorry" is constantly on the tip of my tongue, ready to dive out for the most inane reasons.
I've always known I've done this, but as I've gotten older it's gotten worse. I don't really remember apologizing a lot as a child. Yes, now that I think about it...I was a very unapologetic kid (my parents will attest to that).
But this apologetic nature began building at some point so that now I'm a 41-year-old woman who will probably say "I'm sorry" about the Kennedy assassination.
Well, I am sorry about that. It was a very sad thing. But it wasn't my fault.
Here's the thing: I'm a naturally apologetic person, but I'm also getting to be a cranky middle-aged woman who is more likely to say what I think and not care about the outcome. So, if you and I are playing chicken in the vegetable aisle at the grocery store and I'm the one who ends up moving...I'll probably say, "I'm sorry."
And then immediately feel pissed off about it and walk away before I ram your cart into the display of green beans.
So, I guess I'm getting aggressively apologetic.
I can certainly pinpoint where this comes from for me:
- I hate conflict and will, for the most part, do anything I can do avoid it...even if it means taking the fall for something that wasn't my responsibility.
- I have an insecure streak in me that I've been battling for a while, but am getting the upper-hand on. Ahhhhh...the joys of aging and caring less.
- I cannot stand it when people feel bad (even if it's due to something that had nothing to do with me), so I will apologize, hoping it will make them feel better.
Here's the awesome thing about where I am lately: I have found myself working within a group of incredibly strong women. I mean, we all have our weaknesses, but we call each other out on stuff that we're doing - such as apologizing - in a way that makes me more attentive to what I say, how I say it, and the impression that I'm giving professionally.
But, you know, in a good way. It's not like we all sit around and circle each other's fat or anything.
So, one of these women, who happens to be a client who's evolved into a friend, will actually yell at me when I do it. Like when some sort of technology fails us and I say, "I'm sorry" I will immediately hear, "What the hell are you apologizing for???"
And you know what I'll do then?
I'LL FREAKING APOLOGIZE FOR APOLOGIZING.
Seriously. It's a problem.
But I've figured out a solution!
I read this article recently where the author said that she and her friends came up with a phrase to replace "I'm sorry" so they don't say it anymore. They say something like "Sookie" which is all well and good if you're constantly apologizing in front of the friends who helped you come up with this code.
Say that to a potential client and they might think you're drinking on the job.
My solution is this: I don't say anything at all.
Yes! It's a conscious effort on my part to STOP those words from rolling out of my mouth and I've found that if I don't say anything and allow a pause to happen...it's truly a powerful thing.
First of all, people hate pauses like that. It makes them feel slightly uncomfortable. But it kind of gives you the upper hand. Rather than blurting out an "I'm sorry" you provide this interesting space in the conversation that will probably do one of two things:
- It will make you come across as competent because you're not bumbling all over yourself before you speak your thought-provoking next sentence that hasn't been weakened by an apology.
- If the other person is in the wrong...they might actually apologize to YOU.
The power of silence
I have learned that sometimes silence is the most powerful tool we have when interacting with other people. You learn more, using words economically makes people want to hear what you have to say, and, if you're in the middle of a heated argument, just sitting back and letting the other person rant usually defuses the situation quicker.
Then you go in there with your economical words and close the argument when they've run out of steam.
This pause before apologizing...it really does work. The result of it has been that I feel like Superwoman every time I get through a conversation or email without apologizing AND the other person gets to interact with the capable person I know is inside me somewhere.
So ladies - put on your big girl panties and get out there and unapologetically do what you're capable of.
Just know that if you run into me at the grocery store you better watch out. 'Cause from now on I ain't movin'.