Perfecting the art form of an apology can be hard at times. But hey everyone screws up. Try as we might, nobody is perfect. When you make a mistake that hurts someone else, the right thing to do is to offer an apology. Realising you’ve made a mistake can be difficult and perhaps embarrassing at times. We have all been there. But letting others know that you got it wrong is important to healthy relationships.
But do you have the tendency of over-apologising? Are you the sort of person who blurts “sorry!” when someone collides with you in the street? Or for any minor mishap you have in the workplace? Even when it’s entirely someone else’s fault? Apologising when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologising presents as a weakness at work. Over apologising all the time could mean you’re essentially saying sorry for your existence. Over time this can undermine your self-worth. While “sorry syndrome” is a pervasive issue that is experienced by all sorts of people, it is especially common among young women.
While apologising can be a powerful tool for building trust and improving social cohesion, it’s vital to be able to assert yourself and view yourself as having the right to make your way in the world.
While you’ll often need to apologize in person, at times you may prefer or have to say you’re sorry via email. Here are ways to say sorry without saying sorry.
While there’s no universal pattern, a generally accepted standard for an apology template in emails includes three simple parts:
- Acknowledging that you did something wrong.
- Feeling bad for your actions and being empathetic to understand how they hurt the other person / people.
- Restitution, where you make the situation right.
Here are some alternatives to saying sorry, while keeping to the general standard of an apology email template.
- “Good catch – I will make the updates/changes”
- ” Many thanks for noticing the error, [ name], we will [ verb ] “
- ” Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will [verb] “
- There’s no need to over-apologise when you need clarification, so don’t say sorry when you ask. Instead, experiment with questions like “Could you please say a bit more about that for me?” or “Can you please help me understand this better, maybe by using an example?”
- “Thanks for flagging this issue for me…”
- If you are late for something. “Thank you for waiting for me.”
- If a project falls behind skip the excuses (“I’m so sorry I don’t have this to you yet”) and exchange it for: “Thank you for your patience as we navigate this project, you will have it by Friday of next week.”
- Some people use “I’m sorry” to show sympathy. Instead, practice empathy by reflecting what the other person might be feeling. For example, if someone shares a difficult story or experience, you might say, “That sounds like it was really hard for you.”
- Recognise the failure and respond with confidence: “That didn’t go as well as planned, but I got this. Let me go to work.”
- 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?” Constructive feedback will support your success and boost your self-confidence. Plus your manager will be encouraged that you want to improve and trust their opinion.
Whatever your reason for developing this habit, like with any habit, you can nip it in the bud with a little effort. There’s even a plug-in by Google Chrome called “Just Not Sorry” to alert you to words that undermine your message in emails.
Text by Peigi Mackillop