Here is the opening segment of “The Syndrome of Apology” excerpted from Gagged: The 10 Mistakes that Stop Women from Being Heard at Work:
The Syndrome of Apology
“I’m sorry you couldn’t find the conference room.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through such bad traffic.”
“I’m sorry I’m the only one who thinks that.”
“I’m sorry this is confusing to you.”
“I’m sorry you think that’s what happened.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t understand the directions.”
“I’m sorry there’re things you don’t like about this.”
“I’m sorry no one has come to take our order.”
“I’m sorry you don’t like the new proposal.”
STOP WITH THE UNNECESSARY APOLOGIES!
A predominant communication component that needs to be eliminated from female speaking patterns is the apology. Many women habitually insert “I’m sorry” into every situation and conversation. They take responsibility and accept blame for occurrences they have no accountability for and didn’t perpetrate. They say they’re sorry when there’s no requirement for or benefit from blame or apology. This phrase of remorse seems embedded and deeply bound to female self-worth and obligation. Having looked closely at the premises of the Good Girl phenomenon, we can readily understand how the tendency to apologize can arise from good intentions and respectfulness.
Let’s acknowledge that respectful communication is desirable. Let’s also underscore that apologizing for mistakes or accidental harm is appropriate. Let’s finally agree that expressing concern for others’ welfare is appreciated and welcome. I would still estimate that more than 90% of the apologies I hear from women are unnecessary and often damaging. It’s the frequency, over-use, and disconnected relevance of the apology that causes it to come across badly. Also, frequently repeated phrase will lose their meaning from over-use.
Apology can contribute to lowering your position. When a woman constantly apologizes, she’s likely to convey:
- She thinks of herself in a secondary weak way.
- She feels responsible when anything goes wrong.
- She lacks confidence and self-esteem.
- She’s afraid she’ll be blamed.
- She feels guilty.
Here are some of the opening apologies from this chapter, followed by preferable versions:
AVOID: “I’m sorry you couldn’t find the conference room.”
BETTER: “Everyone says our conference room is hard to find. I’ll make sure someone meets you in the lobby next time.”
AVOID: “I’m sorry you had to go through such bad traffic.”
BETTER: “We’d be happy to move our meetings to an earlier time to help you avoid the heavy traffic.”
AVOID: “I’m sorry I’m the only one who thinks that.”
BETTER: “I hear how strong everyone’s opinions are. I’m happy to listen to others. I have clear beliefs about this.”
AVOID: “I’m sorry this is confusing to you.”
BETTER: “I can hear how confusing this is to you.”
AVOID: “I’m sorry there’re things you don’t like about this.”
BETTER: “Thanks for telling me what you want changed.”
AVOID: “I’m sorry no one has come to take our order.”
BETTER: “It’s taking so long for someone to take our order.”
AVOID: “I’m sorry you don’t like the new proposal.”
BETTER: “It sounds like you’re dissatisfied with parts of the new proposal.”
To continue reading about apologizing and asking for permission, go to:
With empowered words and in solidarity, Cindy