Are you a habitual apologizer? Do you work with people who are?
Habitual apologies are time-wasting, put you on the back foot, divert attention from the matter at hand, and make it difficult to have peer relationships where people express themselves freely and candidly with one another.
Pete and I were underway with our first coaching session. I was commenting on his CV, saying “Write your CV without personal pronouns. The ‘I’ belongs in your letter of application.” He apologized, “Sorry.” I was taken aback. “Why are you apologizing? I’m giving you guidance here.” Pete laughs, “I’m always apologizing, its as if I think people will be disappointed in me.”
Then there is Adele, who has strong opinions, and lots of them. After she contributes she apologies, explaining, “I am passionate about this”, as if others are not.
Or Janet, who habitually apologizes each time she comes into the room.
Or Greg who habitually doesn’t prepare for meetings and begins each meeting with “Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to prepare.” Everyone’s heart sinks realising they, or what they were called together for isn’t important enough for him to prepare.
Apologies belong for major events where you have hurt someone, or done something that has damaged a situation, or caused harm to a person, even if unintentionally.
Apologies only work if you are sincere, don’t repeat the same behavior and show good will to the person or group you are with.
Apologies don’t belong for being late. What belongs is getting involved in what’s happening, and getting yourself up to speed rapidly.
If you are late, don’t expect everyone to stop and repeat everything that’s been discussed so you are up to speed. When this happens those on time see their timeliness isn’t valued, lateness is. Tune in to what is happening and get up to speed yourself.
For those of you who are habitually late, either stop that or learn to enter a group in ways that doesn’t disturb the group. Then you can participate when you are ready. Take the time in a break to check in with someone who can let you know if there is anything they think you need to know.
Apologies draw the attention to the apologizer and away from the work at hand.
This annoys most people. It also puts you “one down” and then you have to work hard to get back onto the front foot and bring your best self to the table.
It is apparent with those who are late had more important things to attend to. Helpful or not, that is their decision.
Apologies are social conventions, and belong in social interactions rather than work interactions.
For those of you who habitually apologize, take a moment and think, how else might I enter a conversation or group? Try, “Hello everyone, I’m pleased to see you all here.”
Save 100s of hours of emotional angst, and improve your self-confidence – don’t apologize, get your best self present, connect, and influence.
Diana Jones ©