I'm Sorry, But You Have to Stop Saying You're Sorry

By: Janice Goldman

I recently attended a wedding with quite a few Millennials. I spoke with an adorable couple — a young man, “Craig,” who looked to be about 30 years old and his beautiful fiancé, “Lindsay,” about 26. Both have great jobs with awesome benefits. In fact, Lindsay’s company is paying for her to get an MBA. When she finishes her degree next month, Lindsay said that she’ll move into a higher-level position, but she’s hesitant to ask for a raise. Her reluctance to request a pay increase relates to her feeling obliged to the company for paying her tuition. As Lindsay put it, “After all, they’ll have just finished paying for my MBA!” She said she’d feel “guilty” asking them for more money.

At one point, Craig got me alone on the dance floor and asked if I would talk to his future bride about this obviously contentious topic. He said that Lindsay constantly apologizes for everything, and as a result, she misses out on opportunities such as this, ​a potential promotion in both rank and salary.

Having already encouraged Lindsay to ask for a raise, it wasn’t until Craig brought up the real problem — apologizing for our actions even though an apology isn’t necessary or even appropriate — that it dawned on me that I have the same problem. I suddenly realized that I’m in constant “apology default mode,” and the idea sickened me.

Sorry is simply another way we downplay our power. It softens what we do in order to seem nice or more likable. “Women know they have to be likable to get ahead,” as Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl points out. “Apologizing is one way to make yourself more accessible and less threatening. Apologizing is one way of being deemed more likable.”

What is it with women feeling the need to be likable?! I’m not judging — heck, I’m guilty as charged! It’s just that it feels as if we’re born into a society that expects women to be likable. It’s no wonder I ask so many people for their opinions and suggestions, because I’m so busy apologizing for my own ideas that I don’t express them. This natural tendency to apologize is simply a way of softening what we want to say in order to not sound “bossy” or “too aggressive.” Well, dammit, I’m tired of it!

I decided to count how many times I say “I’m sorry” throughout the course of a day. Girlfriends, let me tell you — it was shocking! Just within a three-hour period, I’d apologized 32 times! And the most remarkable realization was that I apologized for things that didn’t require an apology. It wasn’t until I found myself apologizing to a colleague for calling her at our scheduled meeting time that it hit me just how bad the situation had become. That’s right — I’d called her as planned, but I was apologizing for disturbing her.

Hey, I know I’m not the only woman out there who runs on default apology mode, so isn’t it time we make changes to this whole “I’m sorry” thing? We need to be conscious together. Let’s kick sorry to the curb once and for all and regain our power. The days of watering down our messages are over.

This article previously appeared on ​AskJaniceGoldman.com


Janice Goldman is a financial coach and author of Let's Talk about Money. She's a nationally recognized transformational speaker, empowerment coach, and facilitator, and regularly speaks at conferences and events throughout the United States.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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