I'm Sorry

I'm Sorry
Back in October of 2020, I read an interesting article by Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris in the Sun Sentinel (the Fort Lauderdale daily newspaper). It was entitled “Being a chronic apologizer”. It was mostly about how saying "I'm sorry" too often in the work place can set you back, but I think some of the premises apply to our everyday lives as well. I have quoted from that article in this blog.

Women often say "I'm sorry" as a way of showing concern, empathy and understanding. The term is used to indicate their personal connection, appreciation of a problem and a sense of care and closeness. I'm sorry functions as shorthand for "I'm with you. You and I are on the same page”.

Women's use of “I'm sorry" to express affinity and compassion is understandable, and often even admirable, but sometimes it can be bad in workplace situations. For example, suppose your boss or a colleague says:

* Our client is upset

* We just lost that account.

* Our presentation went badly.

Responding with “I'm sorry" can suggest that you are in some way responsible for things having gone wrong or, at a minimum, you are clueless about the seriousness of the situation." A better approach might be to say something like “Maybe we should rethink how we present our ideas to our clients?" or, “What can we do differently so we don't lose any more customers?" or "How can we make sure this doesn't happen again?”

I know when a friend confides that she's very ill or says she's so sad about something, my first reaction is to say, "Oh I'm so sorry.” Instead, I should say “Is there anything I can do to help you?" or "I'm here for you, whatever you need."

There is also another situation where saying "I'm sorry” is a weak response and likely to be viewed as merely perfunctory. For example, suppose someone says:

* It's snowing.

* The game's been called off.

* We won't be able to meet this week because so many people are sick.

The best approach, rather than “I'm Sorry” is to put a positive spin on the situation.

* I hear the weather is supposed to clear up by tomorrow.

* When have they scheduled the makeup game?

* What about setting up a FaceTime or Zoom meeting?

According to the article I mentioned earlier, "Some women's tendency to use "I'm sorry' so often is due to their having internalized the common gender stereotype that women should be kind, caring and concerned about others.

The problem is that by conforming to this stereotype, a woman often undermines her ability to project an impression of confidence, competence and strength. Thus, there is a clear double bind for women, what we call the Goldilocks Dilemma. When a woman is seen as caring, they are viewed as likable - but typically without leadership potential. On the other hand, if they present themselves as confident and forceful. They can be seen as talented but bossy, arrogant and unlikeable." (Think, Hillary Clinton.)

"Men. On the other hand, typically resist saying "I'm sorry" unless an apology is actually warranted. Men are likely to see apologizing as diminishing their power and increasing the power of the other person.” (Think Donald Trump.)

Remember, not every mistake calls for an apology. Ask yourself, will it reduce anger or disappointment? Will it promote a better relationship going forward? Will it ease the tension? Unless the answer is "yes", move on and put the incident behind you. However, if an apology is necessary, make it promptly and sincerely. Be direct and brief. There is no need for long winded speeches or rambling, endless remarks. Once you've given your apology, wait for the other person's response and then move quickly on to another topic.

"I'm sorry,” but my time is up. (ha ha)

Until my next inspiration...ciao.

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