Apologizing can be tricky! We apologize when we don’t mean it at all; and when we do need to apologize the process can be more difficult than we realize. Apologies are a necessary exchange in the business world -- mistakes will happen whether human error or not, and the way people apologize can have very real effects on our feelings of self-worth. In fact, researchers have examined why girls and women apologize more than men.
Girls are groomed to be empathetic people-pleasers at the expense of their own individuality. This empathetic behavior can complicate other behaviors associated with success such as drive, winning, and competition. We want to encourage ways of conversation that don’t hinge on “I’m Sorry” that creates a false sense of inadequacy. Here are some alternatives to saying I’m Sorry that we hope you use ASAP!
Turn Apologizes into Gratitude
Say something like “Thanks for flagging that”, or “I appreciate you bringing this error to my attention.” This is a great way of recognizing an error that a client or employee noticed that you didn’t catch before. This prevents apologizing unnecessarily but also addressing the problem that is being fixed.
Actions Over Words
If there is an error that needs to be addressed, a great way to apologize without saying “I’m sorry” is by rectifying the issue. Rather than using “I’m sorry” as a placeholder for an action, handle the problem and say “I have taken care of the issue at hand” or “Thank you for bringing this to my attention - the problem as been resolved.” This shows that you are in control and that you are doing more than apologizing - you are also addressing the issue.
Respond Confidently to Shortcomings, Commit to Fixing It
When you have a task at hand and something doesn’t go your way, recognize the perceived failure and reply with confidence. You can say something like “That didn’t go as well as planned, but I am on it. Let me get to work and get back to you.” This shows that you are acknowledging the problem and gathering resources to get the task done.
Respond to Disagreement by Stating Your Opinion
If there is a disagreement regarding a design change or a new strategy that you don’t like, it is totally OK for you to have an opinion and it is not your priority to keep the peace. Instead of saying “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand this switch” you can say something like “I appreciate your work on this, but I don’t understand the need for this switch.” This moves your responsibility away from keeping everyone happy, and instead makes your focus on making your work and process as efficient as possible.
Each circumstance that may involve an apology is unique - so as always, use your best judgement to assess whether or not you need to say “I’m sorry.” It’s important for women-led businesses to recognize how we may undermine our own work without realizing it, so we hope these tactics for apologizing without saying I’m Sorry is helpful!