18 Feb 2020

Four ways to apologise less

Have you ever instinctively responded 'sorry' when someone else bumped into you? Or written a message to someone starting 'Sorry to bother you'? We know the importance and impact of a heartfelt apology when it's warranted, but needless over-apologising can undermine our impact and authority, especially in the workplace.

So how can you get out of the apology habit? Try these four tips:

1. Pause first

If you find the word 'sorry' tripping off your tongue before you've even had time to consider what you're apologising for, take a pause. Think about why you're saying sorry, and whether or not you really need to.

2. Say thank you instead

If someone does you a favour, thank them rather than apologising for having caused them inconvenience. This also recognises their good deed as an act of kindness rather than one of obligation.

3. Watch out for implied apologies

Phrases such as 'I'm afraid', 'unfortunately' or even 'can I just' all serve as self-effacing language modifiers, giving the impression that you are uncertain or lack conviction. Before you send an email, go back and delete these, and gradually start eliminating them from your speech as well.

4. Know what deserves an apology

You don't have to apologise for sending an email, making a phone call, politely asking a colleague to complete a task, or for disagreeing with somebody else's opinion. You do have to apologise for being late, spilling red wine on a friend's pristine carpet, or for giving away a major plot twist in Game of Thrones.


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