While various articles have been written on the topics of procrastination and self-criticism, let’s focus on one non-productive habit that is common in today’s society.
Whether you are looking at making positive changes in your personal life or work life, this one common habit can be detrimental to the perception that others have of you.
About a month ago, I was listening to the radio in my car (I like listening to traffic updates if I am driving in peak hour traffic). After the news, sports, weather, and traffic report, the hosts of this particular radio show discussed a habit that hit home with me.
Here it is – “Saying “sorry” too much” or “Over-apologising”.
As a trained Counsellor and a certified Life Coach, I have helped others to break out of unproductive habits.
In previous articles, I have mentioned that it can be challenging to just break a habit. You have to replace a habit for long-term gain.
I was “guilty as charged” when it came to saying “sorry” too much. My colleagues, my best friend, and my wife can all vouch for this.
Let me share a story with you. In 2009, I used to work as a Financial Planner for a boutique Financial Planning firm in inner-city Melbourne (Australia). On an occasion, I had to apply for a day off, on short notice. After sending an email to the Managing Director, I was hoping for a favourable outcome. A few hours later, the Managing Director came to my desk, and said “That’s fine, you can have that day off”. Naturally, I was very relieved. As he was walking away, he stopped, turned around and said (in a low tone) “Too many “sorries” in your email mate”.
That day, I decided to make a conscious effort of not apologising too many times. That was to no avail.
In 2017, I was working in a remote Aboriginal community in far northern Australia. One of the locals offered to take me on a boat trip, and show me majestic coasts of Arnhem Land. While we were on his boat, I accidentally stepped on his foot. After realising what I had done, I said “Sorry, I am so sorry about that. I didn’t mean to step on your foot. Sorry once again”. He laughed and replied “It’s okay. You don’t have to say “sorry” so many times. I didn’t realise that you are a sorrier”.
I thought that saying “sorry” too many times is a positive because people who over-apologise are naturally empathic. And, empathy is a positive trait to have. Then it dawned on me that an apology becomes weak if you say “sorry” to many times.
After thinking long and hard, I decided upon doing something more productive every time I needed to apologise to someone.
If you have been reading my articles over the past ten years, you would have realised that I live and breathe gratitude. It is in my top five values. Hence, I decided to incorporate gratitude into apology.
Remember how I mentioned that it is more beneficial to replace a habit than just trying to break it?
Instead of saying “sorry” many times in a sentence, I started to use the words “Thank you” in the same sentence.
For example, if I got caught in traffic, and arrived in a meeting late, I would have said “I am so sorry about being seven minutes late to the meeting. The traffic was very heavy. So sorry about holding you up. I should have left home earlier. Sorry once again”.
Here is what I began to say “Thank you so much for your patience. The traffic was heavier than usual. Sorry for holding you up”.
What I noticed was that others were more receptive of being thanked. The words “sorry” and “thank you” were complimentary in a sentence. Most people who received my apology and gratitude at the same time were appreciative of my words. They even smiled or lightly laughed. It is basic human behaviour that everyone likes to be thanked.
Here is my suggestion to you – please incorporate gratitude in your apology. It enhances the human touch when you have to apologise for something.
The next time you have to say “sorry” to someone, please thank them for something.
Being apologetic and grateful at the same time will take your people skills to another level.
Quote: “An apology can be a wonderful thing so long as it is infrequent and from the heart.” Gary Hopkins
I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how not to dilute an apology by saying “sorry” too many times, and that you will begin to compliment your apology with gratitude.
Influencing you to your excellence,