‘Oh sorry, am I in your way?’ Sally said as the woman pushed passed her, knocking her shoulder. Sally then walked to the lift, pressed the smooth cool button and turned to the person next to her. ‘Sorry, do you have the time?’ she asked.

‘8.45,’ the man replied.
The lift door opened to her office and her eye caught Sam’s at the front desk. His brow was furrowed and his jaw set hard.

‘What’s up Sam?’ she asked.
‘I can’t get this weekend off,’ Sam replied glumly.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,” Sally responded.
‘Ahh, that’s the way it goes, I guess. I’ll sort something out,” he said with a half smile.
‘I really am sorry. I’ve got this weekend off,’ she said with her cheeks reddening.

Apologising has an important role in our language. It is a way to express feeling sorry and regret something that we have done. It can be a powerful way to pave the path for reconciliation. The problem is that it has sneaked its way into the way that we talk and, if overused, can really muck with our mojo, confidence and image of who we are.

Language has power. I invite you to look at the five ways that apologising might be draining yours.

DRINK ME This one will make you grow smaller

Some sorrys are like drinking the potion in Alice in Wonderland that makes you smaller. Sally’s first apology ‘Oh sorry, am I in your way?’ made her smaller than the woman who pushed past her. This was like saying, “Oh, you are more important than me, let me get out of your way.”

Oh and my manners

Sorry has also become an odd way of being polite. ‘Sorry, do you have the time?’ This apology is assuming that asking for the time is an inconvenience. And hey, maybe it is, but the truth is that lots of people like to help or connect and welcome the opportunity to interact. Apologising for asking for help is not honouring either of you.

Pseudo-empathy – Let me stand on your shoes

Often when people share their upset or distress, ‘Oh sorry’ has become a somewhat standard reply. It is often an attempt at empathy, the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. However, it doesn’t quite land where intended, instead landing in the camp of empathy’s close cousin, sympathy. While similar, the effect is very different. Empathy enables someone to feel understood. Sympathy, on the other hand, has an air of ‘poor you’, which isn’t very empowering and supportive. It is more like standing on someone’s shoes while they are still wearing them rather than standing in them!

Give me your pain

Another place to check in with your intention behind apologising is where you want to take away someone’s pain. When Sam felt bad about working the weekend, Sally jumped in and felt responsible for his pain, be it indirectly. The big thing here is that taking responsibility for how someone else feels isn’t very empowering for them. Don’t get me wrong; this one can be a fine line. There are times when an apology is in order. Just check in with your deeper reason behind it.

Guilt trip

Lastly, there is the guilt trip. This is where you apologise for your actions because you feel guilty. A friend popped over for a cuppa today before leaving on a business trip to Thailand for the next two weeks. She was full of sorrys for leaving her husband at home with the kids. If guilt is fuelling your apologies, looking at the inner source of the guilt could lead you to a path of deeper self-worth and confidence.

If you are reading this and thinking, ‘oh my, I do that’, it is kind of exciting. The sorrys are little flags that are helping you to see where you are undervaluing yourself, letting your boundaries drop, and not having true connections in your interactions. They give you the key to the change that will build your confidence and your flow.

I challenge you over the next week to look out for all the apologising that you do. 

Share with us your thoughts. I respond to every comment. 

Patricia Everett

Patricia Everett

Mindset and Communication

“I am a mindset and communication coach and I love supporting entrepreneurs to step into their power and communicate and shine from that place.”

Trish’s Superpower: Insight into the communication patterns that are holding you back and a way to make them work for you.