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How saying sorry all the time is limiting your career authority

31 August, 2021

You start to speak in a meeting. Someone else speaks at the same time as you. You instinctively stop talking, and then apologise.

You email an idea through for a new process that could save your organisation a huge amount of time, and thus money. Your email starts with “sorry, I could be wrong about this….”.

You schedule a meeting with a key stakeholder that they’ve asked you to schedule. They say they cannot make that time and ask you to reschedule. You apologise for that.

Sound familiar?

I know there will be a number of highly successful, competent and capable people reading this post right now nodding along. Feeling seen.

How do I know? Because I used to be this person too.

Apologise for taking up space.
Apologise for an idea, or an opinion before I had even put it out on the table for people to hear.
Apologise for someone else’s lack of organisation, or availability.

Most of the time I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

And then one day, someone finally pulled me aside and asked me what I was apologising for. I remember that moment well. I remember replying with “what do you mean?”. To which that person then stated “I don’t understand why you are apologising for being here and for having an opinion. You don’t have anything to be sorry for”.

All of a sudden it was like a lightbulb went off in my brain. It was like I had stepped up above my body and moved back and forth in time and saw every moment of my life where I’d apologised for absolutely no reason.
And believe me, there were A LOT of times.

It dawned on me that I had this habit so ingrained in my own behaviour that I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.

Does this sound familiar to you?
Are you someone who regularly says sorry without even realising you are doing it?

Here’s the problem with continually apologising just for being…

We aren’t respecting ourselves, our thoughts and opinions. We aren’t backing ourselves. We are unconsciously (or perhaps consciously for some) reducing our impact and our presence before we’ve even given ourselves a chance.

And this can be bad from a career perspective. Why?

Because if you aren’t having an impact, and if you don’t have any kind of memorable presence, it is unlikely your name is going to come up in a room full of people when opportunities are being discussed. Instead, your name may likely come up under the banner of people who “appear to lack confidence in themselves”, and therefore the assumption may be made that you “aren’t ready” for that promotion. That project. That new Team Leader gig.
And this is a PROBLEM.

So, what can you do about it? How can you become more aware of your sorry saying tendencies and get on top of it STAT?

  1. Create awareness around the habit of saying “sorry” – Once you become aware of a habit, and consciously start tracking it, it becomes easier to start curbing the behaviour. Start counting how often you say it in a day or a week. I mean literally COUNT and track the number of times you say sorry each day. Once you start calling yourself out on it, you’ll realise how often you are choosing to step back or belittle your own worth unnecessarily.
  2. Swap out “Sorry” for “Thank you” as much as possible – Language matters, especially in the corporate world when we are seeking to establish credibility and authority in the space we play in. And, constantly apologising for having an opinion is a sure-fire way to reduce yours. Let’s say you did make an error on a document or an email and someone has pointed it out to you. You’d usually say something like “Oh, how terrible of me. I’m so sorry”. Or, you could just say “Thank you for pointing that out to me” and then rectify it and move on.
  3. Remember that you are paid to have an opinion on things, so start owning yours more - Do you ever find yourself saying “sorry, but my opinion is different?!” Don’t belittle the worth of your own opinion – instead say something like “a different lens to take could be….”, or “my opinion differs to yours….”. You have no reason to apologise for having a different opinion to someone. Diversity of opinion and healthy debate is what businesses need more of.
  4. Measure the themes of when it occurs - Stop and reflect on what occasions seem to have you finding yourself saying “sorry” more often than others. Make a list of these times, and who is often there – e.g., does it mostly occur with those you consider to be more senior than you, like your boss etc. Do you notice you do it in bigger crowds of people, or perhaps you only do it in your written communication (e.g., emails)? Once you notice the themes of when it tends to happen, you can dig into the ‘why’ with greater curiosity.
  5. Now, dig a little deeper into why you apologise so regularly. This is an important step to driving deeper self-awareness and longer term growth. We can treat the outcome of you constantly apologising with the adoption of the above tips to consciously get you to stop saying “sorry”. However, to really move forward and to understand where the habit has come from, and to get past it at the source, or root cause, it is important to understand a little more about why this behaviour is ingrained in you. If you need some help to do this, click here.

Remember: The ability to apologise when you genuinely have done something wrong, is a real strength, but excessive apologising shows as a weakness, and can have serious implications on your career and your relationships.

If this is something you are aware of in yourself and can see how it is holding you back, and getting in the way of your career success, let’s talk. Book in a call with me here today.

Much Love,
Keen advocate for helping you get out of your own way!

Author
Claire Seeber is a self-proclaimed travel addict, mini-sausage dog mumma, avid blogger, a lover of a good glass of pinot noir and believes a solid belly laugh should be part of your every day.

She is also a professional coach, speaker and People and Culture consultant. Claire started her business in 2017 whilst working full time as General Manager of HR for a large retail business. What she loves the most about the work she does is being able to work with passionate, motivated and courageous people who genuinely want to reach their full potential and are ready to put the hard yards in to get there.

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