“I’m sorry to bother you, but I need some help.”
“I’m sorry I’m late!”
“Sorry, but could I ask you a question?”
Most women punctuate their sentences with the word “sorry.” We do so because we are socialized to be polite, people-pleasers, and unassuming, and as a result we stuff our sentences with “sorry” to be amicable and pleasant. What many don’t realize is how overusing the word “sorry” is hurting our presence.
Recently, I lead a training session where I asked an employee to introduce herself. She stood, smiled, and said, “Sorry, oh I am so sorry, my name is Mary! And… uh oh… I’m sorry! I’m so sorry.” I waited until she was done and asked, “How about you repeat your introduction, and this time try not to use the word sorry.” She looked at me and again, said “Oh, Sorry!” with a pained expression on her face.
The very first word to come out of Mary’s mouth during this training was “sorry.” I realize that she was uncomfortable speaking in front of the rest of the class, but by continuing to say “sorry” she communicated to us that her presence and voice was something that warranted an apology, and in doing so, she devalued herself before anyone else could. Mary did not realize how often she said “sorry” until I pointed it out to her, and this is unfortunately the case for many women that I coach.
We need to be intentional in using words that do not lower our value. The next time you catch yourself apologizing for no reason, take a moment, think, and rather than saying “sorry”, simply state the facts. Here is how:
Instead of saying “I’m sorry to bother you, but I need some help,” try “I need your help. Do you have a few minutes for us to talk?”
Instead of “I’m sorry I’m late!” try “I realize I am late.”
And instead of “Sorry, but could I ask you a question?” try “I have a question.”
Also, before you send emails, be sure to review them and take out the word “sorry.” While there are moments where apologies are appropriate, I promise you that an email that starts with the word “sorry” really won’t be necessary.
Now, I have a challenge for all of you. For the next 30 days, watch yourself before you start to apologize without a reason, and instead state the facts. Enlist the help of a friend to catch you whenever you slip up and say the “s” word, and do the same for her. With practice and accountability, you will be on your way toward stronger, empowered speech.