I’m sorry, but this really needed to be written.
See, there I go again. Starting my sentence with the words, “I’m sorry.”
Actually, I did that on purpose just to get this post going. I’ve been apologizing to people for most of my life. I’m almost positive that I don’t do enough wrong to warrant all of the apologizing I was actually doing. Even upon meeting someone new. I hadn’t known them long enough to wrong them but right out of the gate, I would be apologizing for some inconvenience that I perceived I was causing, just by talking to them or making some small request.
Take this as an example, if you will. If I was in a restaurant and had been served my meal without any utensils, I would get the server’s attention and then say, “I’m sorry, may I please have a fork?”
Why was I apologizing for wanting, nee, needing a fork to eat my meal? The success of the entire transaction between the restaurant and the restaurant-goer was predicated on me having and using a fork. So, why was I sorry?
The over-apologetic side of me really came to light when I was taking a TelePrompter course for on-camera talent (the TelePrompter is the screen that we use to read a script to camera). One of the tips the instructor had was this: if you make an error while reading the TelePrompter, just keep going. Do not stop. Do not say, “I’m sorry” just move forward. Well, you can imagine what a challenge this was for me. Every time I mis-read a word, what did I do? You guessed it! I stopped and apologized. I began to realize that I had a really bad habit of over-apologizing to people.
The instructor explained to me that when I am in front of the camera as a professional spokesperson there is a production crew, director and client counting on me to deliver. If I keep apologizing every five seconds, it makes me appear weak, unprepared and unprofessional.
In order to coexist with the urge to constantly apologize, I needed to break the habit. At work, it took a lot of practice but I managed to swallow the apology when I messed up, take a pause and start again. You know what? It’s so much better for my own psyche let alone the rest of the crew and the director. Not hearing “sorry” come out of my mouth helped me perform better and it really made me feel like a professional. It didn’t happen overnight but, with practice and with biting my tongue, I’ve gotten much better.
As for my personal life, I had to dig a little deeper to figure out why I felt the need to apologize all of the time. This is what I came up with: I am the youngest of three children and that spot in my family brought a lot of positive attention my way. And I liked that positivity. I liked it so much that I learned, very quickly, how to get more of it and that was by being a people pleaser. I liked when people liked me and I wanted EVERYONE to like me, all of the time.
I knew that inconveniencing people or disappointing them was certainly not a way to get them to like me so I started apologizing first before asking anyone for anything. Ludicrous!
I even apologized when I wrote emails asking someone for something…using phrases like “sorry for the inconvenience” or “if you don’t mind”. I began to highlight and delete those words from my messages. I figured that if I needed something enough, the fact that I am asking for it in writing, then I NEEDED it, plain and simple. My reasons for needing things are valid and important, otherwise, I wouldn’t be asking. I, even to this day, highlight and delete any form of unnecessary apology in my emails before hitting SEND. So simple!
So far, I was able to clean up my ‘sorry for this or that’ professionally and in emails. My next obstacle was in my every day conversations that occurred with people who already liked me. Why am I over-apologizing to my friends? They know me and like me and many of them would do just about anything for me. So, just like when I’m in front of the camera, I had to swallow up those ‘sorry’ words. I said them in my head for a while and then went on with the rest of my sentence out loud. I really paid attention to this and it’s worked for me. “I’m so sorry” still slips out sometimes and that’s ok. Actually, sometimes I really do something that I need to apologize for. Imagine that!
Here’s the good stuff
4 Ways to Coexist with the Words “I’m Sorry”
1. Don’t say it in a professional setting (*see #4 below)
2. Highlight and delete it from emails. If you’re asking for it, you need it to get your job done!
3. Stop apologizing to your friends and neighbors; they already like you!
4. Apologize when you’re wrong. When you’ve actually done something that requires it.
Save those ‘sorries’ for when you really need them.
I’m sorry, but that’s a great list, right there. Oops, there I go again. I meant to write: That’s a great list right there!
Leslie Lynn Nifoussi is a mom of two who thoroughly enjoys her assortment of jobs as a blogger, model, media host, commercial actor and beauty and fashion contributor for HSN. She’s a former small business owner and professional dancer and is eager to share her life’s experiences with you.
Read Leslie Lynn Nifoussi's 'How To Coexist With' Series
How To Coexist With PMS
How To Coexist With The Negative Voices In Your Head