Best way to celebrate International Women’s Day, Quit Saying Your Sorry

I am a woman.

I’ve navigated a successful HR career.

I’ve led HR Boards.

I’ve helped create award-winning workplaces.

I’ve spoken internationally on HR/Leadership topics.

And, I still have the habit of saying sorry when it’s not warranted. Like that time someone at a concert ran square into me and I automatically yelped, “I’m sorry!”. Or someone didn’t follow my instructions properly, did something jacked up, and I apologized to them for the instructions being confusing (they weren’t).

It’s verbal garbage, just like saying “um” or “like”, and it doesn’t help me one bit. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’m saying it (which probably requires I pick up a Marianne Williamson or Glennon Doyal book), and to add insult to injury, an unintentional, habitual “sorry” can sound weird or snarky.

It also makes you look weak. Next time you say your sorry, whether sincerely or habitually, take notice of what your body does. It collapses in on itself. The verbal sorry triggers a physical response that mimics your words. This is appropriate if you are truly sorry and taking ownership of something worthy of a sincere apology. It is not appropriate when you habitually say “sorry” to the extent that you diminish yourself (unknowingly) by taking responsibility for other people’s issues, foibles, or mistakes (yes, I said foibles).

Women, in general, do this more than men. Perhaps it is a behavior learned through interacting with parents or other authority figures when young. No matter the reason, we do it too much.

Here are a few response examples that don’t diminish you or patronize your audience:

Instead of saying “I’m sorry, but I need a minute to reflect on that”, simply say, “Give me one minute to reflect on that”.

Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I really mean no offense, but I respectfully disagree with you”, say, “I respectfully disagree with what you just said, and let me tell you why”.

In the last example, the apologetic disclaimers muddy the water. It makes the statements less effective and it’s not necessary.

My two cents: the best way to support International Women’s Day – Try to quit saying I’m sorry so much. I promise you won’t be sorry. (I couldn’t resist…)

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Dawn Hrdlica-Burke

VP People & Culture/ Talent Consulting at Kinetix. Advisor. Speaker. Writer.

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