Whether it be for a minor inconvenience you imparted on someone else or a major life circumstances that were completely our of your control, we’ve all said sorry for something we didn’t need to.
In light of International Women’s Day 2018, we’ve decided to outline the root cause of this harmful habit and remind our female readers that you don’t need to use the word ‘sorry’ to soften your opinions, thoughts and demands. It is possible to be confident in who you are and what you stand for without apologising for your existence.
From a young age, women are conditioned to focus on nurturing and relationships. As women, we learn to adopt a socially acceptable ‘subservient’ role and thus become more sensitized to trying to maintain harmony in every relationship and situation we are in.
A study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Canada revealed that women apologise more than men not because we do more wrong, but because we have a lower thresh-hold for what we think warrants an apology. On the other hand, men have a more set-stance on what they consider to be offensive. They aren’t not apologising because they are heartless or don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, it’s just that they don’t feel they’ve done something wrong as often as women feel like they’ve done something wrong.
Additionally, women tend to use the word ‘sorry’ as a crutch in order to soften communication that can be misconstrued as assertive or aggressive, or that has the potential to create conflict. Apologising before expressing an opinion or making a demand for example, is a way to appease the situation.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Talent and Success, says that when women use ”sorry” frequently, it undermines our leadership qualities and makes people lose respect for us. This is particularly detrimental in the workplace as women who appear too timid might be seen as unfit to hold positions of authority.
Even though the need to apologize stems from wanting to avoid being seen as rude and abrasive, being ‘nice’ can ultimately be more career-killing that being disliked in the long run.
While there is nothing wrong with truly apologising when you know you’ve done something wrong, and this should not be linked to ego in any form, apologising too frequently and for insignificant things can erode your sense of power and self-respect. Submitting to someone else too frequently is giving that person power over you and creates the impression that you are not strong enough to hold your own and stand your ground.
Before the word “sorry” slips out your mouth again, analyze the situation and try to think of another word or phrase that could fill in the blank if you were not able to use that word. For example, instead of saying “Sorry, do you have a moment for a quick chat?” to one of your co-workers, rather say “Good Morning” or “Hi there”. This way, you are asserting yourself and giving them a moment to acknowledge your presence before following up with a question.
In the same way, instead of apologising before adding your opinion to a discussion, rather precede it with a positive phrase such as “I’d just like to add” to capture the attention of the other person/people and indicate that you are confident in what you have to say.
There are many other words and phrases that can replace the word “sorry” in any situation. Words are a powerful tool and it’s important the we are not selling ourselves short through the use of our everyday vocabulary.
AUTHOR: Farah Khalfe