I was presenting a workshop on trust and doing a section on when and how to apologize, and one of the participants asked for advice. She wanted to know how to apologize to a co-worker who was offended by something she had said.
I was preparing to hear something along the lines of “I said something in anger I shouldn’t have said” or “I said his idea was stupid in front of the team” or “I commented on his toupee.” I can think of dozens of things said between co-workers where an apology is necessary but, nope… it was nothing like that.
Her job was to present new information and initiatives that the company was implementing, and the co-worker was upset with the news and how it would impact him.
Are you like me and want to know “What was she apologizing for?”
She wasn’t callous in her presentation. If anything she was overly solicitous and apologetic. She took into account the impact her announcement would make on all of the employees and offered different avenues to explore if the announcement had a negative impact.
When I dug a bit further, I found out she was an ‘apologist’. She “sorried” herself all day long, apologizing for giving an opinion, apologizing when she was interrupted, apologizing to keep the peace even when she had done nothing wrong. The constant apologies made her seem weak and ineffective.
Here are 10 things not to be sorry for:
1. Another person’s feelings
It is not an apology to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Seriously lose that phrase. You’re not really sorry. It’s the same as saying, “Too bad for you that you can’t get over it.”
2. When someone else is behaving in a way that breaks all of your values
Don’t start out by saying, “I’m sorry but you can’t…” Give it to them straight, so there is no ambiguity. My friend and academy award nominated set decorator, Janice Goodine, worked with a director that she found out had behaved inappropriately to young women on the set. She walked into his office and said, “Touch another woman on this set, and I will feed you your balls.” There was no “I’m sorry” in her delivery, and he got the message.
3. Before you ask a favor
Just ask already.
4. When you really disagree with someone
There are ways to respectfully disagree without an apology. Try, “I see it another way” or “This is how I see it” or even “Have you considered…?”
5. When you have absolutely nothing to do with causing the upset
Now I’m not talking to leaders here who should take responsibility for what happens under their watch. That’s another story. But if you had nothing to do with causing the problem, save your apology for a time when you did.
6. When you are leaving your job
Seriously? You’re doing the happy dance and can’t wait to get out. Don’t open the door to negotiations that you have no interest in by apologizing.
7. Before you present your idea or proposal
Don’t enter doubt into the conversation by apologizing that you didn’t have time, or you’re not sure. People want your best, not your apology.
8. When you’ve made this same mistake again and again and again
One of my core commandments in trust is consistency. Make sure your words and your deeds align. If you are truly sorry, make amends, not apologies.
9. When you are doing it to shut someone up
You’ve been listening to this argument for what seems like hours, and you’ve had enough. Rather than apologize, tell them you need to step away because nothing is being resolved and you need some space and perspective.
10. When you aren’t really sorry
If you find yourself apologizing with a “but” toward the end, you should recognize that you’re not really sorry or apologetic. You’re giving lip service and an excuse. Apologize when you are sincerely sorry.
More trust means more success at work and in our relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it’s your time to tackle this difficult issue, I’m here to help. Get in touch.