Women, Don’t Apologize
Sorry is the new wolf. If you catch my drift.
I find myself constantly saying sorry. Most of the time, for nothing at all.
Sorry for interrupting you interrupting me.
Sorry for speaking.
Sorry for saying sorry.
In the dictionary, sorry means feeling bad for causing trouble or difficulty to someone else.
According to a NY Times article that references a 2010 study from the journal Psychological Science,
“Women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior.”
This means we have more of a tendency to apologize in everyday situations.
In the workforce, saying sorry can be detrimental. In situations that universally aren’t considered a big deal, it can enforce insecurity, self-doubt and a lack of power. It is essentially saying you don’t know what you are doing without directly saying it.
As women, this is even more apparent and puts us at a disadvantage because we are letting things stay the same by having the burden of apologizing for nothing. And for the times where our opinion needs to be heard, we are letting our ourselves stay silent.
This year, I am doing my best to prevent myself from saying sorry for small, mundane things because it has brought down my credibility and made me a good target for not being taken seriously (it’s terrible).
Here are a few tips on how to say sorry less without totally affecting the delicate balance of how our culture views women who speak up (eye roll).
What are you trying to communicate?
Before you say sorry, what are you sorry for? Often times I say sorry to avoid conflict. Most of the time, there really isn’t any conflict so when I say sorry, it makes me feel incompetent, potentially affecting that person’s impression of me. Having this in mind, I would replace sorry with statements.
An example was missing a design meeting because I was doing work. My manager asked me why I wasn’t at the meeting and instead of immediately saying sorry, I said “There is a deadline I need to meet so I am currently working on adding final touches of my design before I present it tomorrow”
I could either end with “I hope you understand” or “I will let you know next time because I forgot”. Though this situation could have avoided if I gave my manager a heads up, I gave an explanation as to why I was not in the meeting and next steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening.
If I had just said “sorry” and then followed with the statement above, it could come off as I am afraid of how you would react. Things like missing meetings happen but it isn’t anything you need to apologize for unless the stakes are high and it’s affecting someone on an emotional level.
When we constantly use sorry, it becomes meaningless.
Say sorry during moments that count.
Be concise and to the point
Saying sorry doesn’t really give you room to explain anything. It’s a cop-out and not a good one. I want people to view me as responsible and for someone who knows her stuff. With this in mind, I would want to communicate in a way that prevents the most misunderstanding and shows my character.
When I accidentally sent the wrong project assets to someone on a tight deadline, I took responsibility and organized the assets. I then told that person I sent the wrong project assets and to make up for it, I organized everything to make it easier on her part. Instead of saying sorry, I simply said that I was sending her the new files because I sent her the wrong ones in the previous e-mail. Not too hard, right?
Before you say sorry, stop and ask yourself:
Have I really caused a problem for someone else?
What am I sorry for?
Does apologizing solve the problem?
Instead of saying sorry, communicate straightforwardly, whether verbally or through your actions.
Things are changing…Slowly. In this time and age, we need to empower girls and women of all ages to use their voice and speak up for the things that matter to them. Saying sorry negates the power of the words we say next and lets the listener know we are not completely comfortable communicating them.
Most of the times I say sorry, it isn’t from remorse but from being overly passive. It reinforces my insecurity of my abilities and perpetuated gender norms of being expected to apologize for something that wasn’t my fault. Instead of saying sorry, I have begun to take action and express my opinion in times that matter without starting with sorry. This means saying something more impactful and honest with how I feel. Saying sorry is off putting, especially in situations where we shouldn’t ask for the things that may be automatically given to men. Women shouldn’t feel like they have to put their opinions aside. It enforces the existing sterotypes of how we portray and treat women.
By saying “sorry” and “just” for everything, we are giving into the existing sterotypes of how women speak.
We shouldn’t say sorry for everything. We shouldn’t say sorry for outwardly expressing our opinions in situations that aren’t a big deal, but to us they feel that way because we have been taught to put ourselves down in those situations.
We are culturally perceived to say sorry, but we can change that by not apologizing for very little thing and taking action to foster respect and confidence in the workforce.