published May 8, 2019

3 Alternatives To Saying Sorry Which In Turn Can Destroy Your Business Career

3 Alternatives To Saying Sorry Which In Turn Can Destroy Your Business Career
  • The word sorry has become an unfortunate staple in our language.
  • First of all, it’s overused and secondly sorry as an action or result is continually misused.
  • After all, what do we have to be sorry about?
  • Well plenty if you are a business leader to whom other leaders will attribute sorry to who you are as a competitor or ally.
How many times a day do you say it?
How many times a day do you say the word “sorry,” when in fact you don’t mean it as an apology, but more as an excuse?
And how much is your “sorry” damaging your reputation as a business leader?
That’s right, damage.
Each sorry that you utter, whether it’s during a business meeting, a casual conversation, or even alone in your car while in a grocery store parking lot where you happen to beat another shopper to a parking space, could damage your own confidence, not to mention lower the perceptions others have of you.
In short, habitually saying sorry when there is nothing to apologize for can…
  • Make you look weak.
  • Destroy any confidence others have in you.
  • Destroy your own confidence.
  • Confuse you as to why you’re saying sorry in the first place, which can be another confidence breaker.
During a recent TEDx Trinity Bellwoods event in Toronto, sociologist Maja Jovanovic explained in a talk focused on women entrepreneurs that continual use of sorry for something other than an apology is a bad habit that predominantly harbors among women.
In other words, to Jovanovic the overuse of sorry is a bad habit that should immediately be stopped by anyone who subscribes to it. This also applies to men.
“Apologies matter. Don't let anybody tell you differently,” Jovanovic states. “But if you're beginning and ending your sentences with ‘sorry’--people aren't looking at you going, ‘Damn! How can I get some of that confidence? How can I promote that woman?”
Jovanovic goes on to say, “If you're beginning and ending every sentence with, ‘Sorry about that,’ ‘Sorry, is this a good time?’ ‘Sorry, can I come in?’ ‘Sorry, can I speak?’ don't be surprised if there's nothing left of your confidence at the end of the day, because you've given it away with every needless, useless apology.”
Of course this does not mean all of us are beyond apologies, and that we should look into different ways that we regard our fellow humans when we have small altercations with them.
What Jovanovic instead suggests is that we come up with alternatives to sorry, which word-for-word can have much stronger impacts when in conversation with fellow business people.
1. “Excuse me.”
If you and someone else bump into each other, “Excuse me” is a perfectly good thing to say, and one that doesn't automatically put the blame on you. If you want to speak up during a meeting and you have to cut in on someone else, then “Excuse me,” is a good way to acknowledge you may be interrupting without demeaning whatever you're going to say next. It's also a good opener for questions like, “Is this a good time?” It allows you to be courteous without apologizing.
2. “Thank you.”
Thanking people is almost always a good idea, and you might be surprised how often a “thank you” can take the place of an apology and even improve on it. For instance, if you've been venting at length to a friend about your work or relationship frustrations, rather than say, “I'm sorry for going on about this,” try, “Thank you for listening,” or “Thank you for being my friend,” Jovanovic suggests. Instead of criticizing yourself, you make your friend feel valued and appreciated.
Jovanovic recalls a time when she was one of four people at a restaurant waiting for a fifth to arrive for a business meeting. When he finally walked in, the sociologist in her was wondering how many times he would apologize and what sort of explanation he would give, but instead of all that he simply said, “Hey, thanks for waiting.” The others all said, “You're welcome,” and without further ado, they ordered their food and got on with their business.
3. Nothing at all.
You should really try this in situations where an apology is not warranted--and in fact the other person should perhaps apologize to you. Jovanovic collected apology stories from her research assistants, and her favorite was when one reported apologizing to a pizza delivery man who was late arriving at her house. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, we live in a new sub-development. Did you have trouble finding this place?’”

Much in the way that colloquialisms such as “you know” or “like” have butchered not just American English, but has also surfaced as a crutch for lazy conversationalists, sorry also falls into that category.
As was said earlier, it is an excuse word that holds no value when overused or uttered in situations in which there is nothing to be sorry for.
Ultimately, the word weakens – or is perceived to weaken – the person using it, which in business can be chalked up to a carnal sin.
So don’t sin; don’t say sorry.
As Jovanovic states, “What do you do if a coffee shop gets your order wrong? You apologize for asking them to do it over.”
Which you shouldn’t do simply because there’s nothing for you to apologize for.

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