You’re probably not old enough to remember, but back in the Seventies there was a very popular book and movie called Love Story. The movie featured Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal and did a lot to popularize matching knit hats, scarves and mittens.
It’s also known for the famous line –“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
This is, of course, ridiculous. Love makes you say you’re sorry a lot. After all, no one is perfect and if your human imperfection causes your loved one to feel bad, you’re going to want to say you’re sorry, even if your beloved doesn’t expect it.
Nonetheless, I do think there are times when you don’t need to say you’re sorry, and I wrote a post about it recently.
You see, I think women tend to apologize too much. We often say “Sorry,” when we really mean “Excuse me,” or when we’re trying to straighten out a misunderstanding.
But saying “Sorry” when we don’t mean it lessens our power and can cause further miscommunication.
Take this scenario – a colleague asks you if you’ve finished the marketing section of a group report. You say, “I’m sorry, I thought you were supposed to do that section.” In fact, you’re sure he was supposed to do it. What you’re not sure of is whether he’s genuinely confused, or just trying to dump it on you.
Whether he was honest or not, the colleague goes to your manager and says, “Oh yeah, she was real apologetic, but that section’s not done.”
See why it’s not good to say “Sorry” unless you mean it?
I think part of the reason women apologize so much is because many of us have lingering problems with asserting ourselves. Telling a colleague he was supposed to do the report, clarifying scheduling issues or correcting a co-worker or supervisor in any way can seem rather presumptuous.
So we apologize first. Unfortunately, that has the effect of negating whatever point we wanted to make.
Here are my tips for getting out of the apology habit:
- Notice how often you do it. Awareness is the first step in making change of any kind.
- Next, ask yourself if you really have any reason to apologize to this person.
- If what you want to do is soften the blow, or sweeten the delivery of what you’re about to say, see if there’s a way you can do it without lessening your authority. Addressing the other person’s perspective can help, “It seems there’s some confusion about who was to do that section. But notice, this memo lists you as the marketing section writer.”
- Changing habits is hard. If you still find yourself wanting to say “I’m sorry” before even the slightest confrontation try this – Take a beat and either whisper to yourself or imagine that you’re saying, “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Then go on and say what you need to.
You’ll never have to say “Sorry” again, unless you mean it, or you’re in love.
by Danielle Dresden