Stop Apologizing- Be Confident in Your Actions

Written by Lindsey Allen, SDSU Chapter Secretary

Ladies, how many of us are guilty of apologizing for situations that are not our fault or simply do not require an apology? In the workplace, in the classroom, and even in day to day interactions we tend to say “sorry” unnecessarily. While it may seem like no big deal to apologize for the little things, it can become a toxic habit that puts us down in the long run.

In a study examining gender differences at the University of Waterloo, women were found to apologize significantly more than their male counterparts every day. This is not because the women in the study committed more acts that required forgiveness, but rather because they perceived their everyday actions to be offensive. When this tendency to assume that what we do is wrong begins to take hold of our mentality, it has a negative effect on our habits in professional and academic settings. We can be seen as people who are easy to pushover if we do not take pride in what we do. As women, we are not at any fault for doing the same things that men do, so let’s put an end to this, and take some steps to eradicate the “I’m sorry” epidemic.

1. Stop yourself before you speak

Before you say the words “I’m sorry” ask yourself if you are actually at fault. If someone did the same thing that you just did, would you be hurt by their actions? If you are simply placing blame on yourself to be polite to someone else, reevaluate your response. There is no need to place the burden of every situation on your shoulders. This is only going to weigh you down. Save your apologies for situations that truly need it, and you’ll see that people will perceive you as more honest in the situations that truly do require an apology.

2. Replace the apology with a thank you

A simple change in vocabulary can change your whole perspective on a situation. For example, instead of saying “I’m sorry that I’m running behind on my project” say “Thank you for your patience while I continue to finish my project.” This relieves the blame from yourself and makes the encounter positive.

3. Take action

Rather than internalizing the blame for a situation, express what you are doing and what your game plan is. People respond so much better to those who put actions behind their words. Here’s an example: you have been working day and night on a project, but your superior doesn’t like how it is looking so far, so they confront you about their concerns publicly in a meeting. While it may be tempting to apologize immediately and say that you’ll work harder- try altering your response. Don’t apologize for the hard work that you have already done even if it is being criticized. Instead, brainstorm with your superior ways to make the project better. Come up with a plan of action and then communicate this to your boss. When they see that you are actively working to improve yourself, they will appreciate it more than an apology. Constructive criticism is meant to give you an opportunity to adapt and grow, not tear you down. Empty apologies show nothing about your character, but putting action behind your words does.

4. Don’t be bothered by bothering people

If you have a question or need to interject, there is no need to apologize for what thoughts you bring to the table. Apologizing before you speak minimizes the impact that your words might have. Your opinion is just as valid as any one else's, so don’t ever shut yourself down to be perceived as polite. A simple “Excuse me, but” instead of “I’m sorry, but” or “Would you mind helping me” instead of “I’m sorry to bother you, but could you help me with...” could make a lasting impact on the person you are interacting with.

5. Be patient with yourself

It is so easy to get frustrated when we are learning new skills or working in a new environment. In one of my first jobs, I was corrected constantly by my boss on minor details of my work. I would continuously apologize for messing up on things that I was not even trained to do. Apologizing for my “mistakes” every single time that I was confronted about them showed my boss that I was easy to step on and okay with being nitpicked. However, once I began showing confidence rather than hesitance in my skills, he began to see me as a hard-worker. This respect only came about once I refused to apologize for things that were not my fault. It is completely okay to get things wrong. Experts do not start out as experts and they certainly do not apologize for their learning process. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes, but don’t apologize for your learning process.

6. Learn to say no

When we take on too much, we are setting ourselves up to make mistakes. Don’t sign up for things that you genuinely do not have time to do, and don’t take on other people’s jobs just because they ask it of you. There is no need to apologize for being honest and upfront about your responsibilities and capabilities. You can say no. No one expects you to do it all. Practicing this skill shows people that when you do take on tasks, they can count on you to complete them to the best of your ability.

7. Be proud of what you do

Apologies oftentimes come from a place of uncertainty and timidity. How many of you have done well on a project or exam and immediately apologized to a classmate or peer because they didn’t do as well as you did? Being good at what you do is never something to apologize for. Be sympathetic in these circumstances, but don’t lower yourself to make other people feel better. You are simply too good to be belittled, my darling.

When we apologize for everything that we do, we are telling other people that we are submissive and easy to blame. In a field where we can be perceived as less capable than our male counterparts, the last thing that we need is to be is the go-to scapegoat. Taking charge of a situation rather than apologizing for it is a step in the right direction to show what we are capable of.

So, let’s hold our sisters accountable for their unnecessary apologies and encourage each other to be confident in everything that we do.

- Lindsey Allen

©2018 by Women in Science Society, Inc.

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