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Why You Should Not Apologize Too Much At Work

Why You Should Not Apologize Too Much At Work

“I’m sorry” is the ultimate peacemaker. When something warrants an apology, it’s surprising the difference a single phrase can make.

But it can also be the smooth transition when feeling awkward stating a fact, the fallback qualifier when trying not to come across as too aggressive, or even an over-compensation for a generally uncomfortable situation.

There’s been a lot of talk lately around how much people, particularly women, apologize at work. A recent article in the New York Times talks about why women apologize and why they should stop. Another post by women’s career advice platform, Levo League, talks about how apologizing too much lessens co-workers’ respect for the apologizer.

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A lot of the arguments for women trimming our vocabularies of words such as “sorry”, “just”, and “like” make sense. If we tend to over-use these comfort phrases, it becomes difficult for others to grasp what we’re trying to say and believe that we mean it.

If there’s too much flirting around a statement, people start to wonder if we know what we’re talking about.

It’s also a matter of developing the skill of self-editing. Both in the written and spoken word, it’s important to say what you mean without muddying the message with unnecessary and distracting words. It makes the concept heavy, harder to grasp and can come across as just plain sloppy.

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Some people are offended by the assertion that women need to monitor their speech patterns, even seeing it as sexist in that women have to adjust their natural instinctive way of speaking to conform to what a male-driven society has laid out as acceptable.

While there may be some validity to this, from a psychological standpoint apologizing too much can make you come across as weak or insecure. Taking it even further, some researchers say over apologizing can come across as subtly insubordinate or even passive aggressive.

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Womans Hand Golding Pretty Spring Flowers

    At the very least it can dilute the phrase to a point where it becomes disingenuous. When an occurrence actually calls for a apology, say forgetting to send an important document that stalls a big project versus explaining how a program works to a new hire, the phrase will be so worn out and standard in your vocabulary, that it will be hard to take seriously. Crying wolf syndrome in the professional realm.

    Women do tend to over-apologize more than men due to their natural tendency to seek harmony and having a lower threshold for offensive behavior. Women also may be more socially attuned than men, to a point where they scrutinize their own innocuous actions into hurtful ones.

    Statistics aside, over-apologizing at work can breach the gender gap, as psychotherapist Beverly Engel notes, “Children of parents who teach them to take responsibility for any problems or issues that come up often become over-apologizers, as do children whose parents teach them that apologizing is a form of politeness.”

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    If you’re worried that not saying sorry will make you come across as mean, consider that some people will actually take incessant apologizing as a social cue of someone trying to elicit an apology from them. This can make them feel you’re trying to manipulate them. Or at the least it can make many situations more confusing and awkward than they needed to be.

    Whatever the ingrained reasons for apologizing too much, it’s a habit worth breaking in the workplace for both men and women. It fundamentally puts the speaker at a disadvantage in a conversation. Especially when an apology isn’t necessary, it can make you come across as a people-pleaser to a fault and a easy mark for someone to take advantage of.

    As over-apologizers tend to be over-analyzers in general, it’s important that you don’t stress yourself over this! Saying you’re sorry too much is often just a confidence issue, and confidence can be built up a little at a time.

    Try just standing up a little straighter, looking people in the eye when you speak, shaking hands with certainty, and, as the old adage goes, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” And try not to tag it with an apprehensive, “Sorry.”

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    Hannah Glenn

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2020

    Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

    Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

    Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

    Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

    Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

    What Is Fear of Failure?

    If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

    Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

    What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

    Patterns From Childhood

    Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

    Perfectionism

    Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

    Over-Personalization

    The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

    False Self-Confidence

    People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

    How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

    Unhealthy Organization Culture

    Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

    Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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    Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

    If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

    They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

    Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

    Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

    High Achievers Become Losers

    Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

    Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

    Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

    The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

    If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

    Loss of Creativity

    Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

    Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

    The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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    Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

    We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

    How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

    1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

    Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

    Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

    If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

    Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

    2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

    Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

    If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

    At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

    3. Learn to Think Positive

    In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

    Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

    Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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    Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

    If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

    It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

    How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

      4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

      Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

      Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

      5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

      There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

      It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

      For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

      6. Have a Backup Plan

      It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

      “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

      Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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      Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

      There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

      7. Learn From Whatever Happens

      Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

      “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

      Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

      For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

      Final Thoughts

      To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

      Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

      Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

      More Tips for Conquering Fear

      Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

      Reference

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