Prone to being overly polite in work emails? Here is how to stop sounding so apologetic.
How many times have you written the words, “I’m sorry”, in an email when you haven’t actually offended someone or made an error? It’s a common problem, especially in the workplace. Apologetic language is used all the time in professional settings, mostly via emails, where coming across as ‘likeable’ can often take priority over getting things done, especially from women.
Compromising your professional values?
Fear of judgement or rejection?
Fear that you might be perceived in an aggressive way?
And overly polite and apologetic in emails is often linked to feelings of imposter syndrome.
While you may think your reflexive apology shows deference, respect or accommodation, it’s actually making you appear less confident in your own professional abilities. Due to being overly apologetic in emails, you can be taken less seriously and it can even negatively affect their career progression.
Here are five ways to sound less sorry, and more assertive, to sound like the boss you aim to be!
1. Say ‘Thank You’ instead
Show concern without saying sorry and demeaning yourself by saying “thank you” instead. For example, if something is late, skip using ‘I am sorry I didn’t have this to you’ …and exchange it with…’Thank you for your patience as we navigate this project, I will send it to you by Monday.” By owning your situation, cutting out the sob story, and giving a simple thank you, you will take the power back and sound more confident.
2. Respond from a comfortable spot
People seem to think that replying to emails needs to be as snappy as replying to a friends invite to drinks after work. Now that instant messenger on all devices is a thing, this doesn’t need to mean that we need to reply asap, without thinking before we send an email. Make sure you’re sending an email from a comfortable spot, where you are not frantic. If you’re calm you can be clear about the outcome you desire in a productive way. Another trick is to be clear about what your response times are. As long as you respond in that time-frame, there’s no need for an apology.
3. Use sorry sparingly
“I’m sorry” can become a statement without meaning. Maybe you’ve fallen into this over-apologizing trap or have found yourself saying “I’m sorry” for things that don’t merit an apology in the first place. Saying sorry certainly has its place, including in the workplace, but save the apology for when you’ve hurt someone personally or emotionally. When it comes to workplace issues, instead recognize the perceived failure and respond with confidence.
4. Make a note of what punctuation, words and phrases to avoid
Look through emails you’ve sent recently and making a list of any apologetic or overly-polite words, phrases and punctuation you’re using regularly.
- ‘No worries if not’
- ‘I don’t want to take up too much of your time’
- I’m sorry to bother you, but…”
- ‘Sorry to interrupt you’
- ‘Sorry to bother you’
5. Ask for constructive feedback
Apologizing too much can come from having low self-esteem or feeling anxious. What better way to build your self-esteem than to get feedback? Ask, “Can you give me feedback on how I can do this differently?” By speaking more straightforwardly and clearly, you can showcase your skills and feel more confident in the process.