How Being Apologetic is Paralyzing Your Leadership Development

The things you say have a greater meaning beyond the words you speak. They can also affect your emotional well-being and impact your professional life. Words change how other people see you and how you see yourself. Understanding the connection between your words and these consequences can change your life for the better.

I’m Sorry …

How Being Apologetic is Paralyzing Your Leadership Development

Saying “I’m sorry” all the time can take its toll on your mental and emotional health. Too often, people say those two little words as though they can actually fix problems — even ones that may not require an apology in any way — and in doing so, they take ownership of the issue. “Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to apologizing as a way to be polite. Yet, unknowingly you’re sabotaging your power, confidence, and authority,” explains Dr. Oz. “Apologizing without a legitimate reason and apologizing too frequently makes you appear weak and less confident. Which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve when you apologize.” Plus, the impact of “I’m sorry” isn’t limited to your personal affairs. The negative impact of that short sentence can also affect your professional life.

Cons of Saying “I’m Sorry”

It is also important to realize that there are some real consequences for saying “I’m sorry” all the time. Remember, there are times when you should say that you are sorry. When you apologize for someone’s loss, you acknowledge their grief and extend your empathy. There are also times when you are genuinely wrong. Whether you spill a drink on another person or hurt their feelings by saying something insensitive, apologizing in these circumstances is not only preferable but necessary — but your words carry gravity. If you say “I’m sorry” all the time, you dilute the meaning and risk sounding insincere. In the end, your words fall on deaf ears.

Stop Saying “I’m Sorry” at Work

Sometimes people say they are sorry because they want to avoid conflict and be well-liked, but the end effect is rarely positive — especially in a professional setting. “Constantly apologizing can have negative side effects on your career, from giving the appearance of incompetence to annoying your colleagues and superiors with your self-deprecating style.” says Forbes. “But the most detrimental and lasting side effect of over-apologizing is how it corrodes your self-image.” When you apologize for contacting someone (e.g. “I’m sorry. Do you have a minute?”) or speaking your mind (e.g. “I’m sorry, but I think …”), it could be interpreted as a lack of self-confidence or as though you feel powerless in a particular exchange, say with your boss — and people could treat you differently. Over time, your perception of yourself may change, too.

Say “Thank You” Instead

The good news is that you can regain your power by shifting what you say. One way to do this is to stop saying “I’m sorry” and start saying “Thank you.” This shift in words will make a dramatic affect on you and your leadership development. Many times when a person says “I’m sorry,” giving thanks is more appropriate and just as much of an acknowledgment. For instance, if you are running late to meet someone for lunch, be it a friend or a colleague, don’t run over saying, “I’m so sorry I’m late.” It sounds insincere and it is unnecessary. Most people know that it is easy to be a few minutes late when you are leaving work. What your lunch date wants is to be acknowledged for waiting. “Thank you for being patient. I needed to get a report in by noon.”


When you shift from “I’m sorry” to “Thank you,” you take back your power and rebuild your confidence. You are not someone’s inconvenience. Stop paralyzing yourself, and your career, by over-apologizing.

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