Should You Say Sorry More or Less Often?

This article is different from what I usually write because it wasn’t inspired by patterns I see over and over with clients, but patterns I see when I am not working. I want to share my thoughts with you to give you a perspective that might help you improve your personal and professional relationships.

Let me ask you: How often do you catch yourself saying you’re sorry? If it happens frequently, or if it almost never happens, I invite you to reflect on what is going on. Here are three potential patterns that need to be broken.  

1.     Apologizing for no reason

An acquaintance of mine asked me a question by email and I had time to reply the same day so I did. The next day, he apologized profusely for not acknowledging my response immediately and thanked me for my insights that he found highly valuable. I love polite people but that apology wasn’t warranted whatsoever. Any reply within a week with a word of gratitude would have been more than enough.

It’s funny how the mind works. Instead of enjoying the person’s message, I made a mental note that he might have expectations much different than mine and future communication should be handled with extra care. Since I am a big believer in simplifying life and not sweating the small stuff, the email created more distance than rapport.

If you have a tendency to say sorry even when you haven’t done anything wrong, please ask yourself what is driving you to do that. Is it an awkward way to make people feel valued and respected, or perhaps to show empathy and connection? Get clear on your reasons and look for a different vehicle to achieve your goal(s) without saying sorry for no reason.

Why? Because when you apologize for no reason, you don’t look kind or compassionate. You look like you may feel inferior, or you are insecure, or you tend to blame yourself a lot, or maybe you make a big deal out of nothing. It is unlikely that the person in front of you will appreciate you more when you are chronically sorry. And in the workplace, this pattern can hold you back because you will appear to lack confidence and people will be less likely to trust that you can do a great job.

2.     Saying sorry but repeating the same behavior

I have to admit, since self-empowerment is my passion, this one is my pet-peeve! I believe people need to take responsibility for their actions. When we make an honest mistake, apologizing sincerely is the right thing to do. Ideally, the person should look for a way to correct what went wrong but it is not always possible. An apology is enough and we move on.

However, when the person makes the same mistake a second time, it is no longer a mistake, it is a choice. If the behavior keeps repeating itself, it has become a pattern. If someone makes promises but doesn’t keep them, saying sorry isn’t enough. Showing remorse is not a solution. The solution is preventing the problems from happening again and regaining the other person’s trust.

If you tend to be late for appointments, miss deadlines, forget things, break commitments, or make errors that could have been easily prevented, it is time for a wake-up call. Stop saying you are sorry all the time and make changes so that you no longer have reasons to apologize.

You may be exposed to people who believe that breaking commitments is inevitable but please realize that the standards of your peer group are just that – their standards – and not a universal truth. If you hate accountability and don’t hold yourself to higher standards, be aware that it is your choice, and it is a limiting one.

If you want to improve your professional relationships, stop creating reasons to apologize. Be empowered, take responsibility for your actions, and improve what is within your control.

3.     Never saying sorry

We are human. We strive to always do our best but our best changes from time to time. When we are sick, when we receive sad news, when we are exhausted, or when we are not grounded for whatever reason, we no longer have the capacity to handle things skillfully and mindfully. When that happens, an apology is warranted and it is enough to keep the relationship strong.

However, some people are unwilling to acknowledge their shortcomings and instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they find someone or something to blame. They make excuses and convince themselves that they are right, so they never apologize. Problems keep repeating themselves like in #2 above, but on top of that, the person appears rude and untrustworthy.

If you find yourself saying repeatedly “it wasn’t my fault”, “there was nothing I could do about it”, “it was someone else’s decision”, “unexpected things keep happening” and the like, please pause and ask yourself when and where you could have stepped up and taken responsibility.

It’s not about blame. Being self-empowered doesn’t mean you blame yourself instead of blaming others. It means letting go of blame entirely and focusing your attention on what you can do to improve situations, and prevent or solve problems.

So take a look at your situation. What needs to change? What will you do about it?

If you need any help, keep in mind I am only a phone call away.

·       If you apologize too much, I will guide you to uncover and change the beliefs that created this pattern. You will feel much better and your relationships will improve.

·       If you feel like your days are out of control and you keep apologizing for what went wrong, I can show you how to reclaim your personal power, change your mindset, get organized, create new habits, and regain control over your workdays. Your stress level will drop and your job satisfaction sky-rocket.

·       If you feel you are never wrong but this article made you want to become self-aware, I invite you to schedule a time to chat with me.

Click here to make an appointment for a complimentary call. I promise, you won’t be sorry you did!

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.