Do either of these situations sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve fallen into this over-apologizing trap or have found yourself saying “I’m sorry” for things that don’t merit an apology in the first place.
It’s a bad habit that can morph into a reflex reaction. This self-defeating pattern of behavior can not only be exhausting to you, but also to everyone around you including your co-workers, boss and family.
This apology impulse may have its roots in childhood. Many women (and men!) are taught to uphold the value of politeness. It’s socialized into our psyches that being nice equates to likability.
Apologizing excessively can be the result of a genuine desire to demonstrate respect. It can become problematic, however, when we hold others’ opinions and reactions in overly high regard. Old habits die hard and unfortunately those well intentioned attempts to be deferential can sabotage us years later.
A tendency to over-apologize may stem from an aversion to conflict. Apologizing can sometimes be a misdirected means of claiming responsibility in order to make a problem disappear–a preemptive peace-keeping strategy–regardless of whether or not you deserve blame in the first place.
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 is how it corrodes your self-image.
Any of this ring a bell? 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.
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:
Start to identify triggers that exacerbate the behavior such as certain people, contexts, moods or times of the 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.
At first this can be a 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 with a friend 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. Whether or not it’s how you intend to come across, apologizing excessively can project a poor image to customers, colleagues and superiors– one that may incorrectly communicate your desire for approval trumps your self-respect. By speaking more straightforwardly and clearly, you can showcase your skills and feel more confident in the process.
Originally published at medium.com