3 Things to Say Instead of “I’m Sorry”

Are you a person whose knee-jerk reaction is to apologize any time you make a mistake? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in many cases, “sorry” really isn’t what your leader wants to hear! I’m not saying that there aren’t times when we should apologize. I am saying that as a leader, an apology is rarely the first response I want.


When someone on my team apologizes for everything:

  • I feel like I’m discouraging them by offering honest feedback
  • I start holding myself back from being as frank as I’d like to be
  • My teammate doesn’t benefit from me sharing my frank feedback

If you’re a chronic apologizer, try a different response besides “I’m sorry.” Here are three ideas:

  • Thank them. Instead of apologizing for your minor mistake or oversight, thank your leader for pointing it out. Then, say you’ll fix it. Then fix it. Easy peasy.
  • Own it. The only thing worse than someone chronically apologizing is someone who chronically makes excuses. Admit your mistake, and explain how and when you’ll fix it. “I completely overlooked that! Good catch! Give me 10 minutes and I’ll have that fixed!” That, my friends, is often all your leader needs or wants to know. Moving on.
  • Explain your thought process and push back. Just because I give direction on something doesn’t mean my suggestion is the best suggestion. If you put a lot of work or thought into your efforts and you still think you’re right, explain yourself. The better the relationship you have with your leader, the more comfortable you should be with leading up by pushing back with your own thoughts and challenging your leader to see it from your point of view.

Are you a chronic apologizer? If so, stop it! (And for goodness sakes, don’t apologize for apologizing too much!) It makes you seem too sensitive (and maybe even a little weak), and it makes the people around you hold back from being as honest as they need to be, and as Sweet Brown says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!

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