Do You Say "I'm Sorry" Too Much?
Customer Service Rep: "Anything else I can help you with?"
Sheri: "Yes, I'm sorry, I have another question . . . "
Did she really need to apologize? Time and again I've heard women say "I’m sorry" when there's really no reason for them to apologize.
I understand that on many occasions they do it to connect, or to show empathy, but the problem is that, in business, it could be misinterpreted as guilt or weakness.
Look at these examples:
A guy at the office says: “I lost my cell phone.”
A woman may reply: “Oh, I’m sorry.”
A man may say: “It sucks to be you.”
A guy at the office says: “I’m coming down with something.”
A woman may reply: "Oh, I’m so sorry.”
A man may say: “Go home dude. I don’t want your viruses!”
Now imagine a woman informs her boss that ABC client called this morning to cancel a contract, and she adds, "I'm sorry!" to show empathy. Could the boss interpret it as, "Hmm . . . Why is she apologizing? What did she do?"
If her boss is a woman, maybe. If her boss is a man, likely, because chances are he wouldn't apologize unless he had a very good reason to do it.
A few years ago I decided to completely wipe out the word "sorry" from my vocabulary. In my case, I realized I was sometimes just being lazy, because retorting to "I'm sorry" didn't require for me to come up with more varied and creative answers. I also realized deciding not to use it at all was easier for me than leaving it in my vocabulary, and having to decide on the fly whether top use it or not depending on the circumstances.
This is my two-step-secret:
I started making a conscious effort to express empathy without using the words “I’m sorry.”
Examples: “That's not good.” Or “Geez, that must have been hard!” Or "My condolences."
Whenever I made a mistake, I made myself say “I apologize,” and immediately added a sentence explaining what I'd do to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
Example: "I apologize for coming in late this morning. From now on I will leave home 15 minutes earlier to ensure it won’t happen again."
It sounds quite different than “I’m sorry,” doesn’t it? It doesn’t sound aggressive, but solution-oriented. And, it certainly doesn’t sound weak!