About a month ago Heather said something interesting to me: “I’ve become very conscious of how often I say the words ‘I’m sorry,’ in email and in person at work. I’m going to stop doing it. I’m not apologizing anymore. Men don’t apologize.”
She was right. (As usual.)
Just that one comment planted a little seed. I started noticing how often I apologized at work, almost always when no apology was warranted. Here are just a few examples:
- “I’m sorry but my calendar is jammed today; I can’t meet with you until tomorrow morning.”
- [In response to an “emergency” caused by a colleague absolutely forgetting about a deadline] “I know you need this reviewed today, but I have five other deals to close this week. I’m sorry but I can’t drop them all for yours.”
- [In response to a colleague who scheduled a meeting without checking my publicly-viewable, up-to-date calendar] “Apologies, but I have a conflict and can’t make that time work.”
These apologies and the many other similar apologies that come pouring from my mouth are needless. I didn’t actually do anything wrong in any of those scenarios.
And worse than that, they’re sneakily counterproductive. The “I’m sorrys” take a situation in which my behavior was appropriate and correct and subtly twist it to suggest that I made a misstep. I believe the routine apologies subtly diminish how I’m viewed by my coworkers, and I’m making a conscious effort to stop. (It’s hard, but I’m trying.)
Worst of all is that it spills over into my personal life quite a bit. I apologized to my daycare provider that my baby wasn’t wearing a cuter outfit. I apologized to my stay-at-home-mom friend that I couldn’t take her up on her invitation to go hiking at 9am on a Tuesday. I apologized to my husband for serving leftovers for dinner when we both work and are equally capable of sourcing food. (Also my husband is a weirdo who loves leftovers, so I doubly had nothing to be sorry about.)
These apologies undermine us. They make us seem less than what we are. They undercut our awesomeness.
And my friends, if you are keeping some children alive and loved and fed, PLUS keeping a household up and running, PLUS bringing home the bacon, then by default you are 100% awesome. You are amazing. You should congratulate yourself every damn day on what you got done and how you rocked it.
Stop apologizing. Remove the needless “I’m sorry” from your vocabulary and save it for when you actually need it.
Heather is also right that men, by and large, don’t do this. Spend a few days or a week just being aware of this speech tic and see if it doesn’t open your eyes.
Keep being amazing, mamas. No apologies needed.